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Human Rights

Student protests rage against COVID-19 lockdowns in Beijing

One expert called them "a serious test of CCP governance.”

November 27, 2022 5:11pm

Updated: November 27, 2022 5:11pm

Students in the Chinese capital of Beijing have taken to the streets as anti-lockdown demonstrations sweep across the country after a deadly building fire.

Crowds at Tsinghua University carried a series of placards touting anti-regime slogans and erupted into a series of chants, calling for “democracy” and “freedom of expression,” reports the Daily Mail.

“At 11:30 am students started holding up signs at the entrance of the canteen, then more and more people joined. Now there are 200 to 300 people,” one witness told an AFP journalist.

David Moser, Director of CET Chinese Studies at Beijing Capital Normal University, called the unprecedented scale of the protests “a serious test of [Chinese Communist Party] governance.”

“I've lived in China for 30 years, and I've never seen such a brazenly open and sustained expression of rage against the PRC govt,” Moser tweeted. WeChat is exploding with protest videos and furious vitriol, and civil disobedience is becoming rampant.”

The student uprisings in China’s capital city are part of demonstrations sparked by a building fire in Xinjiang province – 2,700 kilometers (1,678 miles) away – that killed ten residents.

The high-rise fire went viral on Chinese social media because netizens believe the deaths were due, in part, to a partial lockdown of the building over COVID-19 concerns.

William Hurst, Northwestern University political science professors who studies China under socialism, said the current anti-COVID protests are remarkable in how they have brought united many historical protest group, such as labor and students movements.

“What's happened in the past 24 hours is novel in that protesters have appeared on the streets in multiple cities with apparent knowledge of what is happening in other parts of the country,” Hurst tweeted Saturday.

He continued, “They're all mobilizing around COVID, but this is refracted through distinct lenses,” like how factory workers protested over lockdowns’ impact on their work while students tended to focus on human rights.