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Civil Disobedience over China’s Zero-Covid Policies

Under the almost decade-long dictatorial leadership of Xi Jinping, the citizens of the People's Republic of China have finally erupted into civil disobedience as they protest China’s extreme Zero-Covid policies. Since late November of 2022, Chinese citizens flocked to the streets in a capacity not seen since the infamous Tiananmen Square protest, where thousands of peaceful protesters were inhumanely butchered by the People’s Liberation Army under the orders of Premier Li Peng and Party Elders Li Xiannian and Wang Zhen (1989). Unfortunately, the ongoing protests are receiving little attention from the international community as many are cautious not to disrupt their relationship with the Chinese government. Additionally, with the current escalation of the Ukraine War and the World Cup, the citizens of the world are oblivious to the protest against authoritarianism and the violation of various human rights in China.

The image shown above shows the infamous “Tank Man” who has become the representation of the Tiananmen Square Protest as it shows a defenseless but courageous man standing up to the oppressive and powerful Chinese government (June 5th, 1989). Getty Images

For the hundreds of millions of disgruntled Chinese citizens, the spark that started the overwhelming fight for personal rights was the fire in an apartment building that resulted in the deaths of ten people. When considering the vastness of China and the vehement population that they possess, the fire may not have seen like much. After all, fires are bound to happen. No matter the measures we take to prevent it, there isn’t a definite and cost-effective way to prevent fires in urban areas. However, it wasn’t the fire that triggered the Chinese citizens but the fact that the deaths were reflective of the absurd curb of human rights in the name of public health. The apartment fire to many was an indisputable illustration of the various fallacies of China’s Zero-Covid policies and a call to action to vocalize their government’s transgressions.

An apartment fire in Urumqi in western China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region results in the death of ten people, sparking mass protests across China. Associated Press

Chinese Zero-Covid policies were initially met with global praise as they effectively mitigated the uncontrollable rise in Covid cases and deaths in 2020, seen in most parts of the world. China was praised by the international community for its leadership and innovation to combat the unprecedented fight against infectious disease using modern technology and medicine. The model used by China was deemed so effective that other East Asian countries like Japan and South Korea implemented similar programs. However, in the name of combatting COVID, China took its policies to the extreme as Chinese civilians experienced an atrocious disruption in their human rights. One Chinese citizen recalls being forced not to leave their apartments for months on end due to the extreme Zero-Covid policies being enforced by the Chinese government.

In light of recent events, President Xi Jinping has been pressured by the citizens of China and members of his own party to roll back China’s Zero-Covid policies that he implemented two years ago. Unfortunately for China, with the abrupt removal of Zero-Covid policies without the immediate replacement of another widescale plan, China experienced a sudden surge in COVID cases. Chinese citizens had every right to protest the violation of human rights against them, and Xi Jinping should be commended for recognizing their protests. After all, many were anguished by the possibility of another Tianmen Square massacre or something worse. However, Xi Jinping should have thought his actions through instead of caving into the demands of his citizens out of fear. By doing this, China could have had a major win for human rights and a successful transition from strict covid policies to more relaxed ones.

The abrupt voiding of China’s Zero-Covid policies has resulted in a sudden surge in COVID cases not seen since the virus went mainstream in 2020. Bloomberg via Getty Images

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