‘Xi Jinping Step Down!’: Protestors Chant In China, BBC Says Its Journalist ‘Beaten, Arrested’

New Delhi: The Chinese Police on Monday continued to detain people at a site in Shanghai where demonstrators gathered over the weekend to protest against the Covid-19 lockdowns and called for greater political freedom, news agency AFP reported.

Police arrested two people at Shanghai protest site on Monday, the agency informed. The locals in Beijing continued to protest early into Monday morning in a rare outpouring of public anger against the state. The Police were also seen pulling people aside and ordering them to delete photos on their phones.

The protests in China intensified with hundreds of people taking to the streets against the country’s zero-Covid policy. The demonstrators demand the lifting of the lockdown and release of arrested people. Demonstrations that have erupted across the cities have become the biggest test for President Xi Jinping since he secured a historic third term in power.

A deadly fire incident in Urumqi last week became the fresh catalyst for public anger with many blaming Covid lockdowns for hampering rescue efforts. Hundreds of protesters, mostly young people gathered near the Liangma canal to mourn for the Urumqi fire victims, light candles, play music, and hold up blank sheets of paper.

On Sunday night, at least 400 people gathered on the banks of a river in the capital Beijing for several hours, with some shouting: “We are all Xinjiang people! Go Chinese people!”, reported news agency AFP.

“People now yelling “lift the lockdown”, “release those arrested”. Absolutely extraordinary,” tweeted an AFP correspondent.

Sporadic chants included: “Remember the Guizhou bus crash, the Xi’an pregnant woman who died, those who could not access medical treatment in Shanghai, the people who died in the tragedy in Urumqi”, “we will not forget”, “We are all Xinjiang people! Long live the people!”

Some protesters were chanting, “We want the vote”, “no to nucleic acid tests yes to freedom, freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of cinema, rule of law”, “we want the truth”, “we don’t want fake news”, as per the journalist.

Notably, police clashed with groups of protesters in Shanghai as officers tried to move people away from the site of an earlier demonstration on Wulumuqi street, named after the Mandarin for Urumqi.

While crowds that had gathered overnight — some of whom chanted “Xi Jinping, step down! CCP, step down!” — were dispersed by Sunday morning, as per the AFP report.

ALSO READ | In Censor-Friendly China, Blank Papers Become Symbols For Covid Protests

BBC Says Its Journalist Covering Protests Arrested

The BBC on Sunday said a journalist had been arrested in China and beaten by the police for covering protests in China. “The BBC is extremely concerned about the treatment of our journalist Ed Lawrence, who was arrested and handcuffed while covering the protests in Shanghai,” the broadcaster said in a statement, reported news agency AFP.

Lawrence, working in the country as an accredited journalist, was detained for several hours, during which time he was beaten and kicked by police, according to the BBC. However, the journalist was later released.

“It is very worrying that one of our journalists was attacked in this way whilst carrying out his duties,” the statement said.

In response to the charge, China said the detained BBC reporter ‘did not identify himself as a journalist’, as reported by AFP.

Zero Covid Policy As China Logs Over 40,000 Daily Infections

The zero covid policy has caused public frustration as they witnessed snap lockdowns, lengthy quarantines, and mass testing campaigns.

The protest witnessed the crowd singing the national anthem and listening to speeches, while on the other side of the canal bank, a line of police cars waited.

Cars honked in support as people remained in the area until the early hours, chanting and waving blank sheets of paper symbolising censorship.

Authorities blocked the road to stop cars passing, and around 100 plainclothes and police officers arrived on the scene.

Meanwhile, China reported a fifth straight daily record of 40,347 new COVID-19 infections on November 27. Among these, 3,822 were symptomatic and 36,525 were asymptomatic, the National Health Commission informed on Monday.

That country logged 39,791 new cases a day earlier including 3,709 symptomatic and 36,082 asymptomatic infections.

(With Agency Inputs)