China is seeing unprecedented protests against Covid restrictions as people in a rare display of anger shouted slogans against the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) and President Xi Jinping.

Rare public protests opposing China’s stringent Covid lockdowns intensified in the country, while coronavirus cases continue to rise sharply with close to 40,000 infections reported on Sunday.

Protests are very rare in China, which has strict punishments for dissent against the government. However, in a rare turn of events videos of protests have came to the forefront from various university campuses with students coming out in the open to oppose the lockdowns.

Hundreds of students from Beijing’s elite Tsinghua University took part in a protest on Sunday. “At 11:30 am (0330 GMT) students started holding up signs at the entrance of the canteen, then more and more people joined. Now there are 200 to 300 people… We sang the national anthem and the Internationale, and chanted ‘freedom will prevail’,” a Tsinghua student said.

Tsinghua University is not just one institution where the protests are ongoing.

In China’s Peking University, anti-Covid slogans had been graffitied on a wall in the university, with some words echoing those written on a banner that was hung over a Beijing bridge just before the Communist Party Congress in October.

People had started gathering from around midnight local time, but he had not dared join initially.

“When I arrived (two hours later), I think there were at least 100 people there, maybe 200,” an undergraduate participant told AFP on the condition of anonymity.

“At first, they sang the ‘Internationale’. Later, some students started shouting slogans, but the reaction wasn’t particularly loud. People weren’t really sure what they should shout. But I heard people yelling: ‘No to Covid tests, yes to freedom!'” the student added.

Videos on social media also showed a mass vigil at Nanjing Institute of Communications, with people holding lights and white sheets of paper.

Videos circulated on social media also appeared to show small-scale civil disobedience against lockdowns in residential compounds in Beijing and other cities. The student activity follows a week of unrest, including violent riots, in cities across the country against Covid restrictions.

The mass protests in Beijing, Shanghai, Urumqi and Xinjiang have been making headlines across the globe. Small protests have also erupted in Xi’an, Guangzhou and Wuhan.

China reported 39,506 domestic Covid cases Sunday, a record high but small compared to caseloads in the West at the height of the pandemic.

The protests come against a backdrop of mounting public frustration over China’s zero-tolerance approach to the virus and follow sporadic rallies in other cities recently.

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