FURIOUS protests dubbed the “White Paper Revolution” have erupted across China amid warnings it could be the “beginning of the end” for Xi Jinping.
In the biggest uprising since Tiananmen Square, demonstrators poured into the streets in eight cities, confronting riot cops and calling for Xi to “step down” in a rare act of defiance.
5Protesters and cops have clashed during widespread unrest across ChinaCredit: AFP5Police officers detain people during a protest against the zero-Covid lockdownsCredit: Reuters5Some have called the widespread unrest ‘the white paper revolution’Credit: Reuters5Hundreds gathered on the streets of Shanghai after a deadly fire in UrumqiCredit: AFP5Police form a cordon during a protest in the capital BeijingCredit: GettyFrom Shanghai to Beijing, fury spilled out onto the streets after ten people died in a fire in a tower block in Urumqi on Thursday – a tragedy blamed on the city’s strict Covid lockdown measures.
Protesters in Urumqi were seen confronting officials, smashing down barriers and yelling “end the Covid lockdown” amid claims blocked fire exits trapped people in the blazing building.
As the rage spread across the country, brave demonstrators called for the downfall of Xi and the Communist Party that has ruled China with an iron fist for 73 years – criticism punishable by years in prison.
For the first time in 30 years, protesters flooded the grounds of two universities in Beijing while crowds in Shanghai chanted “down with the Chinese Communist Party”.
Such widespread protests are unprecedented since the 1989 student-led pro-democracy movement in Tiananmen Square that was crushed with deadly force by the army.
Many protesters waved blank sheets of paper in the air in a symbolic protest against censorship – with some now referring to the demonstrations as the “white paper revolution”.
As the nation grows exhausted by the country’s zero-Covid rules, China commentator Matthew Henderson warned the uprising against the regime could be “the beginning of the end for Xi”.
He said “pressure has been building for months” after nearly three years of snap lockdowns, lengthy quarantines and mass testing – and a tanking economy.
“A tipping point seems to have been reached at which the citizens of China have had enough,” he wrote in The Telegraph.
Hung Ho-fung of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore added: “The whole situation is reflecting that the party and the people are trying to seek a new equilibrium, and there will be some instability in the process.”
Hundreds of riot cops descended on protesters, with some officers violently dispersing the crowds with tear gas.
Protesters and cops clashed in Shanghai on Sunday night as the anti-lockdown protests escalated and a BBC journalist was beaten and kicked when several police officers arrested him.
The corporation said it was “very concerned” after cameraman Edward Lawrence was dragged to the ground by cops.
Footage shows at least four officers bundling him to the floor in cuffs in Shanghai before picking him up and leading him away.
Another clip shows him being walked away from the protest as he shouted to a friend: “Call the consulate now.”
Mr Lawrence was held for several hours before being released and is thought to have been targeted because he filmed the uprising.
But Chinese officials bizarrely claimed they arrested him “for his own good in case he caught Covid from the crowd”, the BBC said.
Beijing also claimed the BBC reporter “didn’t identify himself as a journalist”.
Footage showed other protesters behind shoved to the floor by officers and handcuffed before being bundled into waiting vans.
Demonstrators clambered onto police cars and others chanted “we don’t want PCR tests”.
A shocking video appeared to show a police officer pushing a woman against a shop window before detaining her.
Authorities in Shanghai have now put in barriers around a city centre area in an attempt to stop protesters taking to the streets again on Monday.
Elsewhere, protesters in the southwestern city of Chengdu took to the streets and chanting: “No lockdown but freedom!”
Should Xi Jinping mobilise the military, the fall of the Chinese Communist Party, which we think would be far off, could happen quicklyWang DanFormer leader of the 1989 student protests
Similar protests were also reported in the northwestern city of Xian, the southern city of Haikou, the central city of Wuhan and the eastern city of Hangzhou.
Wang Dan, a former student leader of the 1989 student protests, wrote on Facebook: “From yesterday to tonight, from Beijing to Chengdu, from Shanghai to Wuhan, mass protests of varying sizes have broken out in many cities, and all have political demands.”
He added: “A nationwide public revolt is already happening.
“But, if they use a violent crackdown policy or even open fire, a major event altering the world will happen.
“Should Xi Jinping mobilise the military, the fall of the Chinese Communist Party, which we think would be far off, could happen quickly.”
The anger has even spread to the UK as up to 300 people gathered outside the Chinese Embassy in London.
The possibility of more protests is unclear as government censors have been scrubbing the internet of videos and messages supporting the demonstrations.
But Amnesty International has urged Beijing to “let people express their thoughts freely and protest peacefully without fear of retaliation”.
Hana Young, Amnesty International’s deputy regional director, said: “These unprecedented protests show that people are at the end of their tolerance for excessive Covid-19 restrictions.
“The Chinese government must immediately review its Covid-19 policies to ensure that they are proportionate and time-bound.
“All quarantine measures that pose threats to personal safety and unnecessarily restrict freedom of movement must be suspended.”
She added: “It is virtually impossible for people in China to protest peacefully without facing harassment and prosecution.
“Authorities have shown zero tolerance to opposition, especially in the last ten years under President Xi, but this has not stopped the protests.
“Instead of penalising the people, the government should listen to their calls.”
On Monday, Beijing accused “forces with ulterior motives” for linking the fire in Urumqi to Covid measures – saying local authorities had “made clear the facts and refuted this information and smears”.
China’s state media has largely ignored the widespread unrest.
Story Credit: thesun.co.uk