China’s strict anti-COVID policies prompt rare calls for President Xi Jinping’s ouster

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Protests against China’s strict anti-COVID measures have turned into calls for the ouster of President Xi Jinping.

“Xi Jinping! Step down! CCP, step down!” protesters in Shanghai yelled Sunday, rebuking the country’s powerful leader, who’s insisted on a “zero-COVID” policy, and the Chinese Communist Party.

Authorities in at least eight cities sought to squelch the demos, with police pepper-spraying protesters who called for an end to one-party rule.

China has focused on ending COVID transmission by requiring frequent tests and keeping entire segments of its population under lockdown. Neighborhoods have been cordoned off for weeks at a time, with some cities mandating daily testing for millions.

In Shanghai, most of whose 25 million residents were under lockdown for two straight months starting in late March, about 300 demonstrators gathered on Saturday, according to reports.

Cops used pepper spray on people who gathered to mourn the at least 10 people killed in a Friday apartment fire in the northwestern city of Urumqi, an eyewitness said.

The three hours it took for firefighters to respond to and quell the blaze have been partly blamed on the tight anti-virus measures.

While Chinese authorities scaled back restrictions in some neighborhoods categorized as “low-risk” after the fire, it was not enough to contain the rage. Protests quickly spread to other cities including Beijing, along with dozens of university campuses.

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