China’s Covid Protocols Threaten Its Political Status Quo
The unheard-of has happened in China: days of public protests and calls for President Xi Jinping to step down! Residents of Shanghai, China’s most populous city exploded in fury over China’s overly strict Covid lockdowns. Streets swarmed with protesters shouting, “Xi Jinping, step down! Communist Party, step down!” What could have caused such an unusual display of anger?
China’s Covid restrictions are extremely harsh. In the name of “zero covid,” the Chinese people have been sealed in their homes, sent to quarantine centers, barred from traveling, and endured repeated coronavirus tests. They are reaching the breaking point. The latest incident which has caused this unusual defiance by the people against their government was an apartment building fire in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang in China’s northwest. Ten people perished after fire services could not get close enough to the engulfed building. Residents of the area blame the covid lockdown restrictions for the disaster – some even claiming that the doors were welded shut so that it was impossible for the residents to escape the flames.
In further defiance of authorities the protesting crowds held up blank pieces of paper, and no one said anything. The photographer who recorded this rare event said it all: “Everyone was holding it. No one said anything, but we all knew what it meant. Delete all you want. You can’t censor what is unsaid,” In Chengdu, a city in the southwest, people shouted, “We don’t want lifetime rulers. China doesn’t need an emperor.” Defiance like this was previously unthinkable in a country that harshly punished anyone critical of the communist party or its leaders. But, the tipping point has been reached with the masses of people reacting in such defiant public protests. What is China to do? They have been unable to procure effective vaccines, and easing the restrictions now could result in a surge of Covid cases. There is a real fear among Chinese officials that Covid deaths will spiral out of control and cause even more social unrest.