What’s happening: On Thursday, a fire in a Chinese apartment complex killed 10 people in Urumqi. Many believe pandemic restrictions like iron-barred windows and roadblocks caused unnecessary deaths. After the fire, thousands began protesting the government's strict COVID lockdowns and measures.
Largest uprising since 1989: Since Thursday, thousands have publicly protested in many cities across China, with at least 79 Chinese universities included. Among the protesters are educated youths and working-class people alike. These protests are the most significant act of defiance since the student-led demonstrations in 1989, which led to the Tiananmen Square massacre that killed hundreds.
What’s causing the protests: China’s zero-COVID policies are the foremost problem causing the unrest, but protesters are also demanding freedom of expression, criticizing China’s autocratic government, and calling for President Xi Jinping to be removed. In April, Shanghai locked down 26 million residents, causing food shortages, separating families, and denying health care.
Blank sheets of paper: Students protesting the Chinese Communist Party have resorted to using blank sheets of paper, critiquing censorship and the country's lack of freedom of speech. One protester said the display of wordless papers means “we are the voiceless, but we are also powerful.”
These protests are a cry for freedom against pandemic lockdowns, censorship, and, ultimately, China’s autocratic communist government. Young protesters shout, “Give me liberty or give me death,” risking their futures by publicly challenging Chinese leadership. Some analysts expect Chinese President Xi to crush the protests and continue the pandemic policies.