Chinese President Xi Jinping is showing a "rare display of weakness" as Beijing looks to roll back some of it's more extreme COVID-19 policies, according to a former Tiananmen Square protest leader.
"It's hard to predict the outcome of the protests now," Zhou Fengsuo, a human rights activist and former student leader during the Tiananmen Square protests, told Newsweek. "But we are already seeing some loosening of the 'zero-COVID' policy, which is a rare display of weakness for Xi Jinping."
Protests have spread to a number of cities across China as residents pushed back against the country's strict "zero-COVID" policy, in which local governments would lockdown cities and enforce mass testing after detecting just a few cases of COVID-19.
The policy limited the number of deaths to under 6,000 among its 1.4 billion people population, but residents have grown tired of the severe limitations the rules place on their lives three years after the virus first spread.
CHINA DEPLOYS RIOT POLICE IN HAZMAT SUITS TO CRACK DOWN ON COVID PROTESTS
Officials in the Xinjiang region over the weekend started to loosen restrictions in areas with low community spread, declaring that they had basically achieved "societal 'zero-COVID.'" Experts believe that Beijing has changed course in order to help quell the protests.
However, protests continued to spread across social media in a rare lapse from China's censorship network, with videos surfacing on Twitter and TikTok showing demonstrations in cities across the country.
US INTELLIGENCE BELIEVES CHINA PROTESTS WILL FAIL TO SPREAD: REPORT
Some of the protests have included anti-Chinese Communist Party (CCP) chants, which Zhou applauded as part of "going through a baptism of political activism."
"As a survivor of Tiananmen massacre, I am in tears while watching the protesters chanting 'end CCP' in Shanghai, the birthplace of CCP," Zhou said.
TAYLOR LORENZ DEFENDING CHINA LOCKDOWNS LATEST INSTANCE OF MEDIA SHIELDING COMMUNIST REGIME
"Xi Jinping still has complete control within the CCP. But his tight control also means that the system can't deal with surprises because his underlings aren't willing to take initiatives without explicit instructions from Xi," Zhou argued. "Additionally, the 'zero-COVID' system is exhausted already. But at this stage, he is still entrenched."
Experts have speculated that Beijing's policies are unsustainable, but that the government cannot completely roll back its policies until more of the population is vaccinated, which means "zero-COVID" may remain for as long as another year.
Beijing has seen some local neighborhoods allow residents with mild or asymptomatic cases of COVID-19 to isolate at home rather than report to large quarantine facilities.
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs defended its virus response, saying that "facts have proven that China's epidemic response measures are science-based, correct and effective," adding that the U.S. has a far higher death toll and is in "no position to point fingers."
CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP
Xi's government has promised to reduce the disruption of its "zero-COVID" strategy by shortening quarantines and making other changes. However, it says it will stick to restrictions that have repeatedly shut down schools and businesses and suspended access to neighborhoods.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.