How Covid protests spread across China after fire deaths

In the early hours of Monday in Beijing, two groups of protesters totaling at least 1,000 people gathered along the Chinese capital’s 3rd Ring Road near the Liangma River, refusing to disperse.

Later in the day, however, there were no signs of new protests in Beijing or Shanghai and dozens of police had deployed in the areas where the demonstrations took place.

State media on Monday did not mention the protests, instead urging citizens in editorials to stick to Covid rules.

On Monday evening, dozens of protesters gathered in Hong Kong’s Central business district, the scene of sometimes violent anti-government demonstrations in 2019. Several students also gathered at the campus of the Chinese University of Hong Kong to mourn those who died in Xinjiang, according to video footage online.

Protests against China’s strict zero-Covid policy and restrictions on freedoms have spread to at least a dozen cities around the world in a show of solidarity with the rare displays of defiance in China.

The protests roiled global markets on Monday, sending oil prices lower and hammering Chinese stocks.

Many analysts say China is unlikely to end its Covid restrictions before March or April, and needs an effective vaccination campaign before that. “The demonstrations do not imminently threaten the existing political order, but they do mean the current Covid policy mix is no longer politically sustainable,” analysts at Gavekal Dragonomics wrote in a note.

“The question now is what re-opening will look like. The answer is: slow, incremental and messy.”

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