Rights activists and democracy campaigners outside China have come out in strong support of the "white paper" protest movement last weekend that was sparked by a fire in a locked-down apartment building in Xinjiang's regional capital, Urumqi, according to a media report.
Some protesters picked up slogans from the 'Bridge Man' protest banners hung from a traffic bridge in Beijing on October 13 that called on President Xi Jinping to step down and call elections, as well as putting an end to lockdowns, mass Covid testing and surveillance, RFA reported
Those calls were echoed in an open letter to the Chinese government by dozens of exiled Chinese dissidents including Wang Juntao in response to the protests, in which participants held up blank sheets of paper in a mute and ironic protest against authoritarian rule and lack of freedom of speech, the report said.
"There are angry public protests all across China right now, demanding an end to the zero-Covid policy, which disregards people's suffering and flies in the face of medical consensus," the letter said.
"As the person responsible for it, Xi Jinping should step down!"
The letter called for a full review of Covid-19 measures, research into an effective vaccination and treatment program, and an end to rolling lockdowns across the country.
"[China should] investigate Xi Jinping's cover-up of the early stages of the pandemic ... and hold him accountable for wrongdoing, along with the Communist Party and government officials ... who enforced his tyrannical laws," the letter said, RFA reported.
Former 1989 student leader Wang Dan, who runs the Taiwan-based Dialogue China think tank, said overseas solidarity was very important to make the most of the weekend's protests, which were mostly spontaneous and uncoordinated.
Wang said the protests had likely already hurt Xi's prestige within the party.
"This is just the beginning," he said, citing rising youth unemployment and an economic downturn that will fuel dissatisfaction with the Chinese government.
"[Xi] definitely won't have an easy time over the next five years, and I strongly doubt he will get a fourth term in office."
Wang also co-signed a second open letter calling on the army not to fire on civilians, should the protests spread.
"We cannot have a repeat of the tragedy of the June 4, 1989 massacre," according to the letter, addressed to the People's Liberation Army.