China Covid Protests: Here's What We Know So Far

Here's what we know so far about rare protests in China against the country's strict Covid Zero policy.
<div class="paragraphs"><p>A worker in a protective suit stands guard at a public toilet on a street during lockdown, amid the coronavirus disease  outbreak, in Shanghai, China, May 27, 2022. (REUTERS/Aly Song)</p></div>
A worker in a protective suit stands guard at a public toilet on a street during lockdown, amid the coronavirus disease outbreak, in Shanghai, China, May 27, 2022. (REUTERS/Aly Song)

Chinese citizens have taken to the streets against the country's stringent Covid-Zero policy in unprecedented show of anger. The protests in a country known to brutally crush dissent have been reported from multiple cities as citizens lose patience in the face of strict lockdowns.

Here's what we know so far:

What's Happening?

Over the weekend, crowds estimated to be in thousands gathered in several major cities across China to protest against the Chinese government’s long-running restrictions on Covid.

The protests were triggered by a fire in Xinjiang. Bloomberg reported that at least 10 people died in a fire in a highrise in Urumqi, the capital of the province. The reason for the deaths is being attributed to virus controls under the Covid Zero policy, which reportedly hampered rescue efforts as fire trucks struggled to get close enough to the building.

Protests were also reported in Shanghai, where crowds gathered over the weekend to mourn the dead and call for an easing of Covid restrictions. 

Read what a Bloomberg reporter saw in Shanghai here.

Why These Protests?

China persists with its Covid-Zero policy even as the world has learned to live with the virus and eased movement, testing and masking curbs. Yet, despite these restrictions, cases in major cities from Beijing to Shanghai have spiked, and the country is reporting a record number of around 33,000 infections each day.

In India, the confirmed daily cases have waned to sub-500 levels without any restrictions on movement or mask mandates since the start of this year.

Despite having wide-ranging restrictions on people’s movements and mass testing exercises, China has failed to rein in the spread even as the economic impact of the lockdown proves to be severe.

Earlier this week, China’s biggest iPhone factory in Zhengzhou also made news after clashes between security personnel and employees turned violent due to Covid restrictions.

China Unrest Hits Global Markets as Protests Hurt Growth Outlook

Why Are The Protests Unique?

The protests mark a rare display of public dissent in China. Crowds defying strict Covid restrictions took to the streets in large numbers, something not seen in mainland China where government crackdowns are not uncommon.

A Bloomberg reporter in Shanghai, one of the hotbeds of the protest, said he had "never seen so many police gathered in one spot in China".

"Several dozen formed a human barricade on one block to prevent people from walking along the road—and possibly repeating the scene of the previous day’s protests—while hundreds more masked and uniformed officers were bussed into its narrow lanes as a show of force," he wrote.

This Is What It Was Like Inside Shanghai’s Extraordinary Protests

Why Are Global Markets Edgy?

The protests and simultaneous record-high Covid cases hurt investor sentiment as commodities plunged during the afternoon trade on Monday. The outbreak, along with open defiance to Covid Zero norms, threaten to negatively impact economic activity in the world's second-largest economy and the manufacturing base for large global corporations.

Global equities, commodity, and currency markets also felt the impact of the protest, with the Hang Seng China Enterprises Index declining more than 2%, led by tech and property shares.

The yuan weakened 0.6% against the dollar, having plunged more than 1% at the open, the most since May. WTI oil plunged toward $74 a barrel following three weeks of losses as the protests triggered a selloff in commodities.

BBC Journalist Beaten by Police at China Covid Protests


Rishabh covers markets and business news for BQ Prime. ...more
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