Protesters thronged the streets of cities across China over the weekend – defying a brutal crackdown from the Communist regime – to demand an end to coronavirus lockdowns and the resignation of dictator Xi Jinping.
The protests quickly grew to astonishing size after an apartment building fire killed 10 people in Urumqi, the locked-down capital of occupied East Turkistan, where China is currently committing genocide against the indigenous Uyghur Muslims of the region.
Chinese Communist Party censors were unable to suppress the blizzard of smartphone videos flooding social media, depicting incredible acts of defiance against Xi’s tyranny:
Huge crowds packed the streets even in the tightly-controlled capital city of Beijing:
Protesters in the city of Guangzhou lined the streets with tents because they assumed the regime would use its dystopian “health code software” to lock them out of their homes as punishment:
Protesters fought back against the bizarre squads of hazmat-suited police dispatched to clear the streets:
Beijing police mustered enough force to clear demonstrators out of Beijing’s financial district, using pepper spray and viciously beating recalcitrant citizens – but hundreds of people returned to the very same spot a few hours later.
The demonstrators marched in phalanxes with their phones held aloft like weapons, signaling the regime that it could not hope to suppress the tidal wave of information flowing to the outside world:
Another popular protest accessory is a blank sheet of paper, a symbol of mute defiance that grew popular during the Hong Kong pro-democracy protests of 2019 after the Beijing-controlled government systematically made every protest slogan illegal. Holding up a blank paper or placard calls attention to how China’s government silences its people, and also is a means of vexing the authorities because the blank pages contain no words or images that would justify arrest even under China’s totalitarian speech codes:
“The white paper represents everything we want to say but cannot say,” a protester told Reuters on Sunday.
“I came here to pay respects to the victims of the fire. I really hope we can see an end to all of these COVID measures. We want to live a normal life again. We want to have dignity,” he said.
The fire mentioned by Reuters’ interviewee occurred in East Turkistan’s capital of Urumqi on Thursday night. Urumqi has been locked down under China’s deranged “zero Covid” policy for over 100 days, raising suspicions that Chinese authorities are going especially hard on the city because they despise the Uyghurs. China has forced large numbers of Uyghurs into brutal concentration camps for political indoctrination and uses them as slave labor.
Dozens of East Turkistan residents have already been killed by the lockdown, including deaths from starvation and lack of medicine, prompting Uyghur leaders to accuse the Chinese Communist Party of using the coronavirus outbreak as an excuse to complete its genocidal agenda against Turkic minorities. Unrest surged across China after reports surfaced of deaths attributed to lockdowns in other regions over the past few months, particularly stoked by reports of child deaths.
The Urumqi apartment fire was especially horrific, as a huge crowd of onlookers filmed people trapped inside the building screaming for help, to no avail. They were trapped because the exits were sealed under coronavirus lockdown protocols.
“Open the door! Open the door! Someone save us!” a voice could be heard crying from inside the building.
When local officials tried to deny the exits were locked during a damage-control press conference on Friday, the surviving residents flatly accused them of lying. Simmering anger exploded when the Urumqi fire chief claimed the residents were “too weak” to open the supposedly unlocked doors, especially since some of the videos posted to social media showed the exterior doors were physically sealed with wire and wooden bars.
“We Xinjiang [East Turkistan] people don’t dare to go downstairs without permits as it will violate the law even if the building gate is not locked. After the accident yesterday, we are now wondering whether we should still follow the official’s notice in the WeChat group,” an Urumqi resident explained to the BBC. “Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region” is the Communist Party’s Mandarin name for East Turkistan.
Other videos showed a fire truck attempting to spray water on the building, but the stream fell short of the burning structure – reportedly because coronavirus lockdown barriers and vehicles abandoned by forcibly quarantined people were blocking the road. The BBC noted that even Chinese state media videos showed barricades being removed so fire trucks could reach the burning building.
“Sorry, we thought the rescue team would rescue us,” one user commented sarcastically on Weibo, China’s heavily-censored version of Twitter.
Urumqi residents noted the fire raged for over three hours, even though the fire station is less than a kilometer away, and they accused the fire chief of lying when he claimed first responders were on the scene within five minutes.
At least ten fatalities were confirmed, although some local officials told international media the death toll could be much higher, possibly 40 or more. Communist officials tried to keep a lid on the details, but could not stop Urumqi residents from telling the outside world that children were among the dead.
Chinese officials have admitted at least three children were among the ten confirmed deaths, but Uyghurs living abroad say the true number is far greater since many of the apartments were occupied by large families.
The weekend uprising began with hundreds of angry people marching through Urumqi – most of them ethnic Han, taking to the streets on behalf of Uyghur neighbors because they knew the regime’s response would be far more brutal against Uyghur demonstrators.
“Han Chinese people know they will not be punished if they speak against the lockdown. Uyghurs are different. If we dare say such things, we will be taken to prison or to the camps,” an Uyghur woman explained to the Associated Press.
From Urumqi, the movement quickly spread to other parts of East Turkistan, and then exploded across the country as years of simmering frustration with “zero Covid” lockdowns came to a boil. Protests were especially vigorous in Shanghai, the once-proud financial hub that suffered through a brutal two-month lockdown last spring, and happens to have a street named after Urumqi:
The information wave pouring from angry Chinese citizens is too big for even the infamous “Great Firewall of China” to block completely, but censors are using some innovative tactics to muzzle the protesters. Phrases like “blank sheet” and “blank paper” were reportedly banned on Weibo to slow the spread of protest images, and Twitter is reportedly grappling with a tidal wave of spam generated by a vast network of Chinese-language accounts to drown out news of the demonstrations.
“For hours, anyone searching for posts from those cities and using the Chinese names for the locations would see pages and pages of useless tweets instead of information about the daring protests as they escalated to include calls for Communist Party leaders to resign,” the Washington Post reported on Sunday.
“Fifty percent porn, 50 percent protests,” an unnamed United States government contractor colorfully said of the Chinese government’s spam attack on Twitter. The regime in Beijing is evidently trying to rig Twitter so that international users searching for news from cities like Shanghai and Beijing are diverted to racy posts instead of meaningful news:
The regime offered no official comment on the protests or the mass calls for Xi Jinping’s resignation, but it did announce some minor adjustments to its draconian zero-Covid policies on Monday, such as promising that quarantined apartment buildings would no longer be surrounded by barricades like those which prevented fire trucks from reaching the burning Urumqi building.
“Passages must remain clear for medical transportation, emergency escapes and rescues,” a Beijing city official told state media on Monday, without discussing the protests.
Global markets were in turmoil on Monday as news of the Chinese uprising spread, causing sharp drops in the Chinese yuan and the Australian dollar, which many traders use as a proxy for Chinese currency. The U.S. dollar also slid on Monday morning, causing some confusion among analysts, who expected investors fleeing the turbulent Chinese scene to seek safe harbor in American currency.
“Sentiment has turned sour as unrest across China grows. Risk of the situation escalating from here and short-term volatility remains high,” Stephen Innes of SPI Asset Management told Barron’s on Monday.