A fire in Urumqi, the capital of the Uyghur region that killed 10 people on November 24, 2022 was the spark that triggered pent-up frustrations against the Chinese government’s draconian implementation of COVID policies and led to five days of mass protests across several cities in China with fresh clashes reported in the Chinese city of Guangzhou on November 30th.
These were the largest protests in China since the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989. Protests were reported in several cities including Shanghai, Beijing, Chengdu, Wuhan, Tsinghua University in Beijing Communication University in Nanjing, Guangzhou and Urumqi.
The demonstrations and clashes went beyond demands for loosening of COVID restrictions and ending of lockdowns. People’s frustration at the increasing level of control over every aspect of life in China were evident from the slogans which also included a direct challenge to Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party’s rule. Here are some of the slogans reported in various media also visible and audible in videos and images circulating in social media:
“Democracy and rule of law.” “Freedom of expression.” “We don’t want lies; we want respect!” “We don’t want a leader; we want a voting ballot.” “Xi Jinping, step down” Step down, Communist Party!” “Need human rights, need freedom.” “Don’t want dictatorship, want democracy!” “We want freedom! We want freedom!” “Opposition to dictatorship!” “We don’t want lifelong rulers. We don’t want emperors!”