Just five weeks after securing a precedent-breaking third term as China’s leader, Xi Jinping is facing the biggest wave of civil disobedience since he took power a decade ago, as thousands take to the streets in cities across China in protest of his stringent “COVID zero” restrictions.

From Guangzhou in the south, to the central cities of Xi'an and Wuhan, to Urumqi in the west and the megacities of Beijing and Shanghai in the east, crowds have vented their anger against the government, demanding and end to the draconian policies that have affected millions over nearly three years.

Some have even called for democratic freedoms and for Xi to step down — an exceedingly rare and potentially dangerous move after Xi cemented his grip on power at a Communist Party congress last month.