Highlights

  • Xi: protests by frustrated students
  • Xi's first comment on Covid protests
  • Protest against zero-Covid policy

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Protests mainly by students frustrated due to Covid: Xi Jinping tells EU

In a rare public outburst in China, thousands of people staged protests in various cities opposing the strictly followed zero-Covid policy

In his first comment on the unprecedented public protests against his stringent zero-Covid policy, Chinese President Xi Jinping told EU President Charles Michel that they were being carried out mainly by students who were frustrated after three years of the pandemic, a media report said on Friday.

Xi held talks with Michel in Beijing on Thursday. In his talks, Michel “pleaded for use of vaccines and then raised the question of China’s measures and government measures,” the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post newspaper reported from Brussels.

European officials say Xi’s comments during a meeting with Michel signal that he is ready to loosen controls further.

The Chinese leader is also reported to have said that the dominant Omicron strain is "less lethal", but expressed concern about vaccinating the elderly, the Post reported.

This is the first time Xi commented on the public protests, which were reported to have rattled his government. Following this, security has been stepped up in all main cities in China.

In a rare public outburst in China, thousands of people staged protests in various cities opposing the strictly followed zero-Covid policy under cities as well as scores of apartments were being locked down by officials to stop the coronavirus from spreading.

Protestors also called Xi, who was last month re-elected for an unprecedented third term to step down. The slogans called on the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) to quit power.

The zero-Covid policy which has been followed by China during the past three years intensified in the last few months as the Omicron variant spread fast in several cities, including Beijing.

Publicly, China has not acknowledged the protests, while the coverage has been heavily censored in the official media.

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