A protest and memorial was held Monday evening on Low Steps against China’s Zero-COVID restrictions.

Editor’s warning: Mentions of death and violence.

On Monday, November 28 at 7 pm, community members gathered in solidarity against China’s Zero-COVID policy in front of Low Library. 

This gathering was not a University-affiliated event; the vigil was independently organized by students and members of the greater Morningside Heights community. Bwog has not received notice of the principal organizers of this event. However, logistics about the event were spread through the Instagram account @citizensdailycn and flyers around campus. The translated Instagram caption stated that this event was born out of a previously planned memorial event that was rescheduled due to weather complications. The event at Columbia is the first out of five planned protests against the Chinese government, with others taking place in New York, London, Paris, and Toronto throughout the rest of this week. 

Since the majority of Monday’s memorial and protest was spoken in Chinese, Bwog gathered the general message through sentences in English. Protestors shouted phrases such as “Stop the Communist Party!”, “End zero policy in China!”, and “Free arrested protesters in Shanghai!” A large poster displayed the words “Chinese Communist Party Step Down! Give Me Liberty Or Death!” Individuals held small signs with similar phrases and bore candles in memoriam; the Alma Mater statue was also blindfolded. An NYPD car was seen on College Walk, but was not observed to have interfered with the protest.

This event was held in response to a deadly fire in the Xinjiang region of China. The fire took place on Thursday in Urumqi, leaving 10 people dead and at least 9 injured. Xinjiang has recently been in lockdown due to China’s “Zero-COVID” policy, which many believe was the prime cause of Thursday’s deaths. Fire engines and fire escapes were purported to have been blocked by COVID-19 restrictions, which Urumqi authorities deny. The Zero-COVID policy consists of mass testing and strict lockdowns in businesses, schools, and households. These lockdowns are in place until no new COVID-19 cases are reported. 

The circumstances surrounding this fatal fire have sparked significant public outrage against the Communist Party. Major protests were held in Urumqi, Shanghai, and Beijing (including its regional Tsinghua University), as well as in Wuhan, the pandemic’s place of origin. Protesting in China has historically led to imprisonment and censorship, so these protests will likely play a significant role in the relationship of Chinese citizens with their government in the upcoming months. 

Students hold a sign reading “Chinese Communist Party Step Down! Give Me Liberty Or Death!” 
A blindfolded Alma Mater.
An NYPD vehicle on College Walk.
Memorial Messages.

This is an ongoing news event and Bwog will update below with information and updates as it progresses. 

Update made on Tuesday, November 29 at 4 pm:

A video shared with Bwog from Monday’s event shows a member of the gathering being punched by an approaching individual. The victim is reported to have been rendered unconscious after being struck, but this claim is unconfirmed. The presence of ambulances and an NYPD car on campus could be related to this incident.

This post was amended to maintain the anonymity of event organizers.

Staff Writer Emma Burris, Events Editor Ava Slocum, Publisher Charlotte Slovin, Deputy Editor Lillian Rountree, Monday Daily Editor Ben Parkhurst, Science Editor Kyle Murray, and Staff Writer Sara Lin contributed to the reporting of this article. 

Cover Image via News Editor Victoria Borlando

Low Steps Protest Images via Events Editor Ava Slocum

Memorial Messages via Deputy Editor Lillian Rountree