“No COVID tests, we want to eat”: rare demonstration by young Chinese in Beijing

“No COVID tests, we want to eat


Crying their fed up with health restrictions, around 300 to 400 young Chinese demonstrated Sunday evening near the Liangma, a river that waters Beijing, at the end of a day marked by similar gatherings in various places in China. 

“No COVID tests, we want to eat!” Chanted the demonstrators in particular, some brandishing white papers, an allusion to censorship, others lighting candles.

They responded to calls made on social networks, arriving there one by one until eventually there were several hundred.

Some bouquets of flowers are arranged on the altar, where a sheet on which was written “for the victims who perished in the fire of Urumqi on November 24”.

This fire, which occurred in the capital of Xinjiang province (northwest), killed ten people on Thursday and accentuated the popular discontent that had already been rising in recent months against the very strict “zero COVID” policy followed by the authorities.< /p>

The authors of numerous posts circulating on social networks blamed the measures taken against COVID for having aggravated this tragedy, cars parked for weeks due to confinement in the narrow alley leading to the building in flames having hindered the arrival of help.

“We are all residents of Xinjiang!” Some protesters in Beijing claim, according to an AFP journalist present on place.

“Come on Chinese people! Long live the people!” they add.

Small groups sing, others wait patiently, despite the cold, filming the gathering with their mobile phones.

The protest, mostly of young Chinese, is peaceful, but at least a dozen police cars are visible on nearby streets.

Some officers cut through the crowd to film participants along the Liangma, which crosses one of the most populated districts of Beijing.

Demonstrators begin speeches, while others chant slogans: “Freedom of art”, “Freedom of 'writing', etc.

From across the river, a voice is suddenly heard: “Beijing is proud of you!”

Passing motorists honk their horns in support , united in anger in the face of “zero COVID”.

A little later, the group began to sing “L’internationale”, then the Chinese anthem.

“ Don't forget those who died in the bus accident in Guizhou, don't forget freedom!”, Says a protester, referring to a tragedy that occurred in September which involved this vehicle transporting residents to a quarantine center and which left 27 people dead.

“Remember the pregnant woman from Xi’an who died, those who did not have access to medical treatment in Shanghai,” shouts a second, quoting from other tragedies linked to the strict sanitary measures in force in China for nearly three years.

“We will not forget!”, the crowd replied in chorus.

Shortly before 10:30 am, the police had tried to disperse r the demonstrators, but some resisted.