As night fell in Shanghai, they gathered in the hundreds.

Angry ordinary people took their frustrations to the streets.

When we arrived, we followed the crowds up a gravel road. He was blocked by a line of police standing shoulder to shoulder.

They were preventing people from gathering on Welqi Road, the site of yesterday’s protest.

But no matter where they were allowed to gather, people came anyway.

At first they stood largely silent. Words can be dangerous here.

But there was strength in them, and instead they carried blank pieces of paper and waved white handkerchiefs.

Their presence alone spoke volumes; Everyone was taking a big risk.

But there was a sense that they felt part of something historical and important. Some faces were emotional, others angry.

People holding white papers in Shanghai
Blank sheets were kept in protest

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Among the crowd, we met a group of young friends who were full of passion.

“We hope more people will stand up bravely and resolutely, this is our goal,” someone told us.

“Because we told the truth, they were not happy and arrested some people. We demand that these people be released, but they don’t do anything, they don’t treat people as people.”

People spontaneously applauded her for speaking, as they have for everyone brave enough to speak to the media.

Chants of “Free the People” started around her immediately and spread throughout the crowd.

Another woman began telling us how it was more grief than anger that overwhelmed her when she was suddenly cut off.

The police burst into the crowd, moving quickly and decisively, pushing people back, arresting those in their path.

Everyone who can run.

Police officers block access to a site in Shanghai.  Pic: AP
Pic: AP

Gradually, they pushed the people further and further: we saw at least one person wrestled to the ground and arrested, but the crowd did not disperse.

A backlash may follow – the authorities have a lot to worry about.

Such protests have now broken out in many cities – cries of “No PCR tests” sometimes accompanied by bolder calls including “Down with the Chinese Communist Party”.

Hymns like this are really unheard of, and though such scenes might be expected elsewhere, they are not in China.

It is hard to overstate how exceptional this is.

The Chinese Communist Party will be watching, and so will the world as well.

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