Protests against Beijing’s strict COVID-control measures spread to Shanghai and Beijing on Sunday as demonstrators gathered for a candlelight vigil for victims allegedly killed in a fire due to lockdowns in Xinjiang. 

The event then turned into a protest as Shanghai protesters expressed outrage against the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the regime’s leadership. 

Reuters, citing witnesses and videos, reported that a large group of protesters chanted, “Down with the Chinese Communist Party. Down with Xi Jinping.” 

It was a rare public protest against the Chinese communist leadership.

The crowd also held blank sheets of paper as a symbol against censorship, shouting, “lift lockdown for Urumqi, lift lockdown for Xinjiang, lift lockdown for all of China!” 

The public protests now go beyond social media and spread to some of China’s top universities as people and students gathered to express their dissent. 

A blank sheet of paper is now a protest symbol for demonstrators to express their outrage against the CCP’s COVID curbs. This tactic is used to avoid censorship or arrest.

According to Reuters, students in universities like Nanjing and Beijing hold blank sheets of paper for silent protests. 

In-person protests are rare in China as the CCP can impose brutal crackdowns to suppress protesters. For example, in 1989, the CCP killed ten thousand innocent students in the Tiananmen massacre. 

The protests in Shanghai and Beijing followed a deadly fire that killed at least ten people in Urumqi, Xinjiang, on Thursday, sparking public anger towards Beijing’s stringent “zero-COVID” policy.

Many posts by Chinese social media users questioned that the victims could not escape because the building was locked down, delaying rescue operations. The anger then turned into a protest.

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