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Hundreds protest China's 'zero COVID' policy in Tokyo's Shinjuku

Protesters hold up blank sheets of paper, which have become a symbol of resistance to the suppression of freedom of speech, in opposition to China's "zero-coronavirus" policy, in Tokyo's Shinjuku Ward on Nov. 30, 2022. (Mainichi/Natsuki Nishi)

TOKYO -- Hundreds of people including young Chinese residents of Japan took to the streets in front of JR Shinjuku Station here to protest China's "zero-coronavirus" policy on the evening of Nov. 30.

    The call to protest went out over social media, and many of the demonstrators held up blank sheets of paper as they demanded freedom in China. The blank white sheets have become a symbol of resistance to the suppression of freedom of speech by Chinese authorities.

    The movement against China's "zero-COVID" policy erupted after 10 people in Urumqi in China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region were killed in a Nov. 24 fire. Many believe that severe coronavirus restrictions on residents' movements led to multiple casualties in the blaze. Protests continue in major Chinese cities including Shanghai and the capital Beijing, as well as in Western cities with large Chinese populations.

    At the rally in Shinjuku, people shouted, "Stop PCR tests, let them live a normal life," and some called for Chinese President Xi Jinping to resign while others criticized the Chinese Communist Party for its authoritarian rule. At a memorial set up in one corner of the venue, some people offered flowers and put their hands together in prayer for the victims of the Urumqi fire.

    A 20-year-old international student at a university in Japan said, "I was struck by the courage of people of my generation who stood up in China. It's my duty as a Chinese citizen to come here."

    Another Chinese student in their 20s said that they experienced a weeks-long lockdown in the city in China where he lived last year. He explained, "At first I thought the 'zero-coronavirus' policy was the right thing to do, but it's gone too far. I wish the Chinese government would show graciousness in correcting its mistakes."

    (Japanese original by Teppei Hayashi, Foreign News Department)

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