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'White paper revolution' protests spread across China as anger mounts at government

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Protests against China's strict zero-COVID policies and heavy-handed censorship sparked protests over the weekend in cities around the country, including Beijing. Photo by Mark R. Cristino/EPA-EFE
Protests against China's strict zero-COVID policies and heavy-handed censorship sparked protests over the weekend in cities around the country, including Beijing. Photo by Mark R. Cristino/EPA-EFE

Nov. 28 (UPI) -- Protests continued across China over the weekend in a show of defiance as anger over President Xi Jinping's draconian COVID-19 policies boiled over into calls for greater freedom.

Images on social media and international news outlets showed citizens holding up blank sheets of paper, symbolizing the heavy-handed censorship that the government imposes to stifle any dissent. Information about the protests, which some are calling the "white paper revolution," has managed to spread on the Chinese internet despite Beijing's tight control.

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Groups of hundreds of protesters took to the streets on Saturday in Beijing and Shanghai, as well as cities including Chengdu, Xi'an and Wuhan, where the COVID-19 virus originated. The scope and scale of the anti-government demonstrations are larger than any China has seen since the Tiananmen Square democracy protests of 1989.

Hundreds of people in the financial hub of Shanghai continued to protest into Monday as police made arrests and placed a long row of blue barriers to block off one of the main demonstration sites, the BBC reported.

RELATED China breaks COVID-19 daily cases record with 39,791; world down 3% in week

The BBC said that one of its reporters covering the protests was beaten and arrested by police in Shanghai on Sunday.

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Calls for Xi Jinping and the ruling Communist Party to step down were mixed into protests at various locations, including the capital city Beijing, according to CNN and social media video, which UPI is not able to verify independently.

Anger over Xi's zero-COVID policy of strict lockdowns, forced testing and digital tracking sparked into protests after a fire on Thursday in Urumqi, capital of the far western region of Xinjiang, killed 10 people who had been quarantined.

RELATED COVID-19 lockdown protests intensify after deadly fire in China

The blaze and deaths sparked accusations that the lockdowns, which had been in place in much of Xinjiang for more than three months, hampered rescue efforts.

A viral video making the rounds on Chinese social media on Saturday claimed to show a woman at Communication University of Nanjing holding up a blank piece of paper before an unidentified figure took it away. The gesture spread to other students at the university and quickly became a symbol of the protests around the country, with netizens calling it the "white paper revolution" or "A4 revolution," referring to a common page size.

Government officials and state-run media have not officially commented on the protests. China on Monday announced 40,347 new COVID-19 cases, a record high as the country faces its largest outbreak since the pandemic began.

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