Anger in China is mounting as hundreds of protesters and police clashed in Shanghai on Sunday night, Nov. 27, over the country's strict Covid-19 restrictions, Reuters reported.
This marked the third day of protests in China, which has spread to at least eight other cities of the country, Associated Press reported.
Targeting party and leader
The protests in Shanghai began on Friday and have reached the capital, Beijing, and dozens of university campuses.
In the early hours of Monday, Nov. 28 in Beijing, two groups of protesters totalling at least 1,000 people were gathered along the Chinese capital's 3rd Ring Road near the Liangma River, refusing to disperse.
Some of these protests featured slogans targeting the Communist Party and leader, Xi Jinping, a rarity and unprecedented development, as frustration is mounting over his signature zero-Covid policy nearly three years into the pandemic.
To disperse the crowds in Shanghai on Sunday, police used pepper spray on demonstrators.
However, the people rallied again in the same spot hours later after being chased away.
Police stepped in and broke up the demonstration one more time, and a reporter saw protesters under arrest being driven away in a bus.
Journalist taken away
The media was not spared.
BBC reported that Chinese police assaulted and detained one of its journalists, Ed Lawrence, covering a protest in Shanghai, before later releasing him after several hours.
"During his arrest, he was beaten and kicked by the police," a BBC spokesperson said.
Wave of protests across China
The wave of dissent spread to other cities as protesters took to the streets in Wuhan and Chengdu on Sunday, Nov. 27.
A large crowd gathered in Chengdu, Reuters reported, where they held up blank sheets of paper, a symbol of defiance towards the ruling party's censorship.
In Beijing, two groups of protesters, totalling at least 1,000 people, gathered along the Chinese capital's 3rd Ring Road, refusing to disperse.
Reuters reported that one group chanted, "We don't want masks. We want freedom."
In Wuhan, residents took to the streets smashing through metal barricades, overturning Covid testing tents and demanding an end to lockdowns.
Hundreds of students from Beijing's Tsinghua University, Xi Jinping's alma mater, also protested on campus.
They were reported to have been singing the "Internationale", the socialist anthem, China's national anthem, and chanting "no to lockdowns, we want freedom".
Protesters called for Xi's resignation
Fuelled by their growing frustrations with the anti-virus measures, some protesters were seen on videos shouting for Xi to step down or for the ruling party to give up power, AP reported.
In a video of the protests in Shanghai verified by AP, chants of "Xin Jinping! Step Down! CCP! Step down!" were heard.
One protester, who spoke to Reuters, said: "I'm here because I love my country, but I don't love my government... Our Covid-19 policy is a game and is not based on science or reality".
According to Reuters, protesters in Chengdu were heard chanting: "We don't want life long rulers. We don't want emperors."
These chants were aimed at Xi, who scrapped presidential term limits and has awarded himself a third five-year term as leader of the ruling party and who some expect to try to stay in power for life.
According to witnesses and videos posted on social media, one large group was heard chanting: "Down with the Chinese Communist Party, down with Xi Jinping".
In a rare surge of protests in China, demonstrators called for the ruling Communist Party and its leader, Xi Jinping, to step down, amid anger at the deaths of at least 10 people in an apartment fire in Xinjiang, presumably during a strict Covid lockdown. https://t.co/7eT7YT4nHw pic.twitter.com/WT54Q0yC1M— The New York Times (@nytimes) November 27, 2022
It is rare to see such public protests against the country's leadership.
Public displays of dissent have been eliminated under Xi, and mass protests are quickly stopped by the authorities.
In the restive northwestern parts China, a deadly blaze sparked protests, reported Reuters.
A fire on Thursday, Nov. 24, at a residential high-rise building in the city of Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang region, killed 10 people.
The fire led to accusations that lockdowns were a factor that led to the deaths.
Urumqi officials denied the claim that Covid measures hampered escape and rescue efforts.
A day after the fire, residents in Urumqi were seen protesting against the anti-Covid policy.
Many of these residents have been under some of the country's longest lockdowns, unable to leave their homes for 100 days -- more than three months.
No change in policy
Despite the growing dissent, it is unlikely that China will roll back its restrictions.
Xinjiang Communist Party secretary Ma Xingrui called for the region to step up security maintenance and curb the "illegal violent rejection of Covid-prevention measures", Reuters reported.
Beijing continues to defend the policy as life-saving and necessary to prevent the healthcare system from being overwhelmed.
Officials vowed to continue with it, despite the Covid-19 measures already exacting a heavy toll on China's economy -- the second-largest in the world.
China sets another record high number of cases.
Zero-Covid policy notwithstanding, infections are on the rise in China.
According to Reuters, China reported their fifth daily record of new local cases.
Cases have gone up to 40,052 on Nov. 28, compared to 39,506 cases from the day before.
Top photo from Twitter/Tom Mackenzie TV