A masked protester at the demonstration outside the Chinese consulate. (Safiyah Riddle)

MANHATTAN — The city with the largest Chinese population outside of Asia became the scene of protests in support of demonstrators taking to the streets in China..

On Tuesday evening, hundreds gathered outside the Chinese consulate on 12th Avenue to demand an end to China’s zero-COVID policies and other restrictions on freedom. Hundreds more had flocked to Low Library on Columbia University’s campus the night before.

They repeated similar refrains in Mandarin, including, “Give me liberty, or give me death” and “Xi Jingping, step down!”

Demonstrators gather at the Columbia University library. (Yi Liu)

Ongoing demonstrations across China that began after a deadly fire in Urumqi, a city in  Xinjiang province where residents have been on lockdown for months. Activists say pandemic restrictions prevented residents from escaping the blaze. Protests have spread to provinces across China and more than a dozen cities globally.

“The fact that so many people came today is something we didn’t expect,” said a Chinese undergraduate student who helped organize Monday’s protest.

The Columbia gathering was supposed to be a small vigil honoring the dead in Urumqi. After word quickly spread through the Telegram messaging app, more than 200 people showed up.