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'Xi Jinping STEP DOWN': Huge protests in China over strict Covid-19 curbs, thousands arrested

Hundreds of demonstrators who led anti-government chants were taken away and punched or pushed up against a police car in some cases, international media reports said.

'Xi Jinping STEP DOWN': Huge protests in China over strict Covid-19 curbs, thousands arrested

NEW DELHI/BEIJING: Rare public protests opposing China's stringent Covid-19 lockdowns have intensified in the country amid calls for Xi Jinping to step down as coronavirus cases continue to rise sharply with close to 40,000 new infections reported on Sunday. Chinese nationals posted and shared several videos of public protests, including a mass demonstration in Shanghai where people in a rare display of anger shouted slogans against the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) and President Xi Jinping, on social media and Twitter.

Many protesters were reportedly being arrested. There are also videos of protests from various university campuses where students came out in the open to oppose the lockdowns. Students were also seen demonstrating at universities in Beijing and Nanjing, among other places. The latest unrest follows a protest in the remote north-west city of Urumqi, where lockdown rules were blamed after 10 people died in a tower block fire, BBC reported.

Though Chinese authorities denied that Covid curbs caused the deaths, officials in Urumqi issued an apology late on Friday, pledging to "restore order" by phasing out Covid curbs, the report said.

During Saturday night`s protest in Shanghai, people were heard openly shouting slogans like `Xi Jinping, step down` and `Communist party, step down`, BBC reported. People were seen holding blank banners, while others lit candles and laid flowers as a mark of tribute to the victims in Urumqi. Such demands are an unusual sight within China, where any direct criticism of the government and the President can result in harsh penalties, BBC reported.

Demonstrators who led anti-government chants were taken away and punched or pushed up against a police car in some cases, the report said.

Meanwhile, Beijing on Sunday promised to ban the practice of barring building gates in closed-off residential compounds. In particular, barricading building gates and residential-complex entries in high-risk areas has been strictly prohibited, Xinhua news agency reported.

Snap lockdowns have caused anger across the country - and Covid restrictions more broadly have trigged recent violent protests from Zhengzhou to Guangzhou, BBC reported.

Meanwhile, the National Health Commission on Sunday said 39,501 coronavirus cases, including 35,858 asymptomatic cases, were reported in the country by the end of Saturday as mass COVID tests were carried out across China to identify new clusters of infection.

It is for the fourth consecutive day that China reported an increase in cases, the highest since it recorded a sharp spike in cases in top cities like Shanghai in April.

The capital Beijing has been reporting a sharp escalation of cases, which on Sunday climbed to over 4,700, amid growing protests and unease in the city over lockdowns of dozens of apartment buildings. As of Sunday, the city has 9,694 cumulative confirmed cases.

The State Council's Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism, meanwhile, has reiterated its commitment to cracking down on COVID-19 control malpractices and urged localities to rectify improper implementation of the guidelines.

The mechanism said that some local governments have been found to either roll out overt measures such as ordering widespread lockdowns or take a lax attitude toward the disease, and both tendencies are wrong, state-run China Daily reported on Sunday.

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