China’s lockdown protests spread to overseas campuses and cities

Protests against China’s draconian zero-coronavirus policy and restrictions on freedom have spread to at least a dozen cities around the world, showing solidarity over the weekend in a rarely seen defiance in China.

Dissidents and students living abroad held small all-night rallies and protests in cities across Europe, Asia and North America, including London, Paris, Tokyo and Sydney, according to a Reuters tally.

Tally counts show that dozens of people attended the protests in most cases, but some exceeded 100.

The rally is a rare example of Chinese people at home and abroad uniting in anger.

Protests on the mainland were sparked last week by a fire in China’s Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region that killed 10 people trapped in an apartment building. Protesters said the lockdown measures were partially to blame, but officials denied that.

On Monday night, dozens of protesters gathered in Hong Kong’s central business district, the site of some of the most violent anti-government demonstrations in 2019.

“I think it’s a normal right of people to express their opinions. I don’t think such a right should be suppressed,” said Lam, a 50-year-old Hong Kong citizen.

Dozens of students also gathered on the campus of the Chinese University of Hong Kong to mourn those who died in Xinjiang, according to online video footage.

“Support from overseas”

Since President Xi Jinping took power a decade ago, authorities have cracked down on dissent and tightened control over civil society, the media and the internet.

But strict policies aimed at eradicating COVID with lockdowns and quarantines have become a lightning rod for frustration.

While this policy has kept China’s death toll far lower than in many other countries, it has left millions of people confined to their homes for long periods of time and has left China, the world’s second largest economy, with a pays the price of harming

Nonetheless, Chinese officials say it must be kept up, especially to save lives among the elderly, who have low vaccination rates.

Some overseas protesters said it was their turn to shoulder some of the burden their friends and family have endured.

“That’s what I should do. When I saw so many Chinese citizens and students taking to the streets, I felt they had so much more on their shoulders than we did,” he said Sunday. Chen Sita, a graduate student who was one of the organizers of a demonstration that drew about 200 people in Paris, said. .

“We are now showing support for them from abroad,” Chen said.

A spokesman for China’s foreign ministry said at a regular briefing on Monday that China was unaware of protests abroad calling for an end to its zero COVID policy.

Asked about the protests in the country, a spokesperson said the question “doesn’t reflect what really happened,” saying China believes the fight against COVID will be successful with party leadership and people working together. Said there was

denunciation, slogan

While overseas Chinese students have often rallied in support of the government against critics in recent years, anti-government protests are rare.

Outside the Pompidou Center in Paris, some demonstrators brought flowers and lit candles for those killed in the fires in Xinjiang.

Others criticized President Xi Jinping and the Communist Party and called for their removal.

The defiance of Xi has become more public after dissidents hung banners on a bridge in Beijing before the Communist Party Congress last month, accusing him of clinging to power and a zero-coronavirus policy.

About 90 people gathered at Shinjuku Station, one of Tokyo’s busiest stations, on Sunday. Among them was a university student from Beijing, who said any protests against coronavirus rules in China would inevitably center the blame on the Communist Party.

“At the heart of it is the Chinese system,” said a student who asked to be identified as Emmanuel.

But some protesters were offended by the more militant slogans.

The organizer of the protests scheduled at Columbia University in New York on Monday, who asked to identify herself as Sean, stayed away from sensitive issues such as Taiwan’s status and China’s mass internment of Uyghurs in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. said to do so.

“We have spoken with some activists in Taiwan and Xinjiang … we have agreed to refrain (from it),” said Sean of Fuzhou, China.

“We know it can push a lot of people away.”

(Reuters) China’s lockdown protests spread to overseas campuses and cities

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