COVID protests escalate in Guangzhou as China’s lockdown anger boils

COVID protests escalate in Guangzhou as China's lockdown anger boils
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SHANGHAI/BEIJING, Nov 30 (Reuters) – People at China’s Guangzhou manufacturing center clashed with riot police in white hazmat suits Tuesday night as frustration with strict COVID-19 rules simmered after three years, according to videos on social media. epidemic.

conflicts in the southern city, protests In the commercial center of the capital Beijing and Shanghai other cities Over the weekend, China saw the biggest wave of civil disobedience since President Xi Jinping took power a decade ago.

Anger is mounting as China’s COVID-19-affected economy rebounds after decades of extreme growth that underpins an unwritten social contract between the ruling Communist Party and a people whose freedoms were severely curtailed under Xi.

In a video posted on Twitter, dozens of riot police in all-white pandemic gear, holding shields over their heads, scrambled over what appeared to break the isolation barriers as objects flew over them.

Police were later seen escorting a number of people in handcuffs to an unknown location.

Another video clip shows people throwing objects at police, and a third shows a tear gas canister falling into a small crowd in a narrow street, followed by people running to escape the smoke.

Reuters confirmed that the videos were shot in Guangzhou’s Haizhu district, which is the scene of COVID-related outbreaks. unrest two weeks ago, but could not determine when the clips were shot or the exact sequence of events and what sparked the conflict.

Social media posts said the clashes occurred on Tuesday night and stemmed from a dispute over lockdown curbs.

The government of Guangzhou, a city hit hard by the latest wave of infections, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The China Dissent Monitor, run by Freedom House, which is funded by the US government, estimates that at least 27 demonstrations took place across China from Saturday to Monday. Australia’s ASPI think tank estimates there were 43 protests in 22 cities.


Guangzhou, home to many migrant factory workers, is a large port city in Guangdong province, north of Hong Kong, where authorities announced late Tuesday that they will allow close contacts of COVID cases to be quarantined at home rather than forced to go to shelters.

The decision broke with the usual practice under China’s zero-COVID policy.

In Zhengzhou, where a large Foxconn factory producing Apple iPhones has been the scene of worker unrest due to COVID, authorities announced the “regular” resumption of businesses, including supermarkets, gyms and restaurants.

However, they have also released a long list of buildings that will remain under lockdown.

Hours before these announcements, national health officials said on Tuesday that China would respond to “urgent concerns” expressed by the public, and that COVID rules should be applied more flexibly based on each region’s circumstances.

But while the loosening of some of the measures that came with China posting a record number of daily COVID cases may seem like an attempt to placate the public, officials are also to search those who have made recent protests.

“The police came to my front door to ask me about everything and have me fill out a written report,” a Beijing resident, who asked not to be identified, told Reuters on Wednesday.

Another resident said some friends who posted videos of the protest on social media were taken to the police station and asked to promise “they won’t do this again”.

It was not clear how the authorities identified the persons they wanted to question and how many such persons the authorities had contacted.

The Beijing Public Security Bureau did not comment.

On Wednesday, several police cars and security personnel were stationed at the east Beijing bridge, where a protest was held three days ago.


In a statement late Tuesday, the Communist Party’s top law enforcement body, which did not address the protests, said China would decisively strike a blow to “the infiltration and sabotage activities of enemy forces”.

The Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission also said that “illegal and criminal acts that disrupt the social order” will not be tolerated.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said that rights and freedoms should be exercised within the framework of the law.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby said on Tuesday that protesters in China must not be harmed.

COVID has spread despite China largely isolating itself from the world and demanding substantial sacrifices from hundreds of millions of people to comply with brutal testing and prolonged lockdown.

While infection and death numbers are low by global standards, analysts say reopening without increasing vaccination rates could lead to widespread illness and death, and hospitals could be overflowing.

Quarantines have hit the economy, disrupting global supply chains and upsetting financial markets.

Data released Wednesday showed China’s November manufacturing and services activity recorded the lowest values ​​since the two-month lockdown in Shanghai that began in April. Read more

Chinese stocks (.SSEC), (.CSI300) Markets were stable as they weighed domestic economic weakness against hopes that popular pressure could eventually push China to reopen.

The head of the International Monetary Fund, Kristalina Georgieva, pointed to a possible decline in China’s growth forecasts.

Additional reporting by Eduardo Baptista and Yew Lun Tian from Beijing; Written by Marius Zaharia; Editing: Michael Perry, Robert Birsel

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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