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Chinese protests over COVID lockdowns reach boiling point in Beijing, Shanghai

Mass protests continued in cities across China on Sunday in opposition to the country's strict COVID-19 lockdownsThe Washington Post reports protests erupted in Beijing, Shanghai, and other metropolises. 

Tensions mounted last week following a deadly apartment fire in Urumqi, with The New York Times reporting at least 10 people died and nine more were injured. Many protesters blamed the deaths on China's COVID restrictions, which they say prevented people from leaving the apartment and also hampered the ability of rescue workers to reach those who were trapped. 

The government, though, has pushed back against these assertions, further angering the protesters by claiming that the people in the apartment died because "their ability to rescue themselves was too weak."

As China continues to enforce its "zero-COVID" policy, residents in Shanghai were seen gathering in the streets and chanting for an end to the lockdowns, where the largest protests saw hundreds of people voicing their anger. In an unprecedented show of dissidence, some of the protests were even directed at Chinese President Xi Jinping himself, an almost never-seen occurrence in a country where opposition to Xi's authoritarian regime is heavily punished. 

The Post reported that chants from the protesters included, "Xi Jinping, step down!" and "Communist Party, step down!"

While police officers eventually forced some protesters to disperse, it remains unlikely that Xi or any other Communist officials will relax the COVID-19 restrictions. The Communist Party's main newspaper has also called for Xi's policies to be upheld, per the Times.