A timeline of Covid-related protests in China

Discontent has been brewing for months in China over the country’s coronavirus policy, with relentless mass testing, local lockdowns and travel restrictions pushing many across the country over the edge.

Those frustrations have now spilled over into the streets of some of China’s largest cities as demonstrators have called for an end to lockdowns and an increase in political freedoms.

Here is a timeline of the major Covid-related protests since the start of the year.

– Shanghai frustrations –

The onerous lockdown in Shanghai since late March has brought the first clear glimmer of widespread opposition against Covid restrictions.

The measures sparked sporadic protests and food shortages – both unheard of in China’s richest city.

In April, a six-minute video of audio clips of desperate residents in China quickly went viral before it was censored.

Social media users posted the video in multiple formats to evade censorship, in the biggest wave of online protest since the deaths of Wuhan COVID-19 doctor Li Wenliang in February 2020.

– Campus protests –

In May, hundreds of students on an elite Peking University campus in Beijing protested strict lockdown measures that allowed more freedom of movement for staff than students.

Also read: China’s virus cases are at a six-month high despite grinding lockdowns

The rare protest was later defused after officials agreed to ease some restrictions.

Universities in nearly all of China have been closed for the entirety of the epidemic, preventing visitors and preventing students from easily returning home.

– Henan Bank protests –

From May to July, hundreds of bank depositors who lost money when several rural banks in Henan Province froze deposits gathered in the provincial capital Zhengzhou to demonstrate.

Some protesters have reported that their Covid health symbols turned inexplicably red upon arrival in Zhengzhou, preventing them from travelling, and have accused officials of gaming the system.

Health codes are used to trace contacts and link them to identity documents. In many cities across China, scanning a health code is a requirement for entering public spaces and using public transportation.

– Tibet protests –

In October, hundreds of people in Lhasa, the capital of the tightly controlled province of Tibet, staged a rare demonstration against the harsh lockdown that has lasted nearly three months.

Videos showed hundreds of people – most of whom appeared to be migrant workers of Han Chinese descent – marching through the streets, demanding to be allowed to go home.

The protests were geographically located in an area near the Potala Palace, the traditional residence of the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet.

– Beijing Bridge –

The same month, just days before China’s ruling party prepares to open a historic congress, a defiant protester placed two hand-painted banners with slogans criticizing Communist Party policies on the side of a bridge in Beijing.

“No Covid tests, I want to make a living. No cultural revolution, I want reforms. No lock downs, I want freedom. No leaders, I want a vote. No lies, I want dignity. I will not be a slave, I will be a citizen,” one of the banners read.

The other banner called on citizens to go on strike and remove “the traitorous dictator Xi Jinping.”

– Guangzhou clashes –

In November, protesters in the southern city of Guangzhou clashed with police, after the lockdown was extended due to a surge in infections.

Videos circulated on social media and verified by Agence France-Presse showed hundreds taking to the streets, some tearing belts intended to prevent isolated residents from leaving their homes.

Protesters chanted “No more tests”, and some threw debris at the police.

– Foxconn protests –

Violent protests erupted at the world’s largest iPhone factory, in Zhengzhou, Henan Province.

Hundreds of workers at the factory, owned by Taiwanese tech giant Foxconn, marched over disputes over wages and terms, with some clashes between protesters and riot police.

Also read: Hundreds protest against Covid-19 lockdowns in southern China

Foxconn later offered the new recruits a bonus equivalent to $1,400 to terminate their contracts and leave, in an effort to stamp out the unrest.

The sprawling factory, which employs more than 200,000 workers, has been closed since October after a surge in Covid cases.

– Urumqi protests –

Hundreds took to the streets of Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang province, in late November, according to videos circulating on social media, calling for an end to the lockdown measures that have affected the region for the past three months.

Video footage partially verified by AFP showed them crowding outside city government offices during the night, chanting: “Lift the lockdown!”

The protests erupted after a fire killed 10 people in an apartment building in the city. Social media users claimed that the lockdown measures prevented residents from leaving their homes in time and delayed the arrival of emergency services to the complex.

The rare mass protests in the tightly controlled region sparked a wave of similar unrest and vigils across China’s cities and universities.

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