Covid protests rise in Guangzhou as anger over China lockdown boils over

  • Riot police in hazmat suits clash with protesters
  • An estimated 27-43 protests took place in 22 cities across China
  • 1989 is the biggest wave of civil disobedience since Tiananmen
  • Covid Lockdowns, Protests Hit Chinese Economy

Shanghai/Beijing, Nov. 30 (Reuters) – People in the Chinese manufacturing hub of Guangzhou clashed with white hazmat-equipped riot police on Tuesday night, online videos showed, the latest in a weekend of heightened protests against severe Covid-19. 19 Lockouts.

The conflicts that follow objections Shanghai, Beijing and in other placeChina has exploded as it records a record number of daily COVID cases and health authorities, including in the southern region around Guangzhou, have announced a slight easing of restrictions.

Mainland China’s biggest wave of civil disobedience since the 1989 Tiananmen protests comes after its economy grew at its worst rate in decades.

That era of prosperity was the basis for a social contract between the Communist Party and the people, whose freedoms have been dramatically curtailed since President Xi Jinping came to power 10 years ago.

In a video posted on Twitter, dozens of riot police, dressed in all-white pandemic gear and holding shields above their heads, advanced to form what appeared to be tearing down lockdown barriers as objects flew.

Police were then seen escorting a line of people in handcuffs to an unknown location.

Another video clip showed people throwing objects at police, and a third showed a tear gas canister landing in the middle of a small crowd on a narrow street, then people running to escape the smoke.

Reuters verified that the videos were shot in Guangzhou’s Haiju district, the scene of Covid-related unrest two weeks ago, but could not determine when the clips were taken or the exact sequence of events and what sparked the clashes.

Social media posts say the clashes took place on Tuesday night and stemmed from a dispute over lockdown restrictions.

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

China Dissent Monitor, run by the US government-funded Freedom House, estimated at least 27 protests across China from Saturday to Monday. Australia’s ASPI think tank assessed 43 protests in 22 cities.

Easing obstacles

Home to many migrant factory workers, Guangzhou, a sprawling port city north of Hong Kong in Guangdong province, announced late Tuesday that it would allow close contacts of COVID cases to self-quarantine at home rather than being forced to go to shelters.

The decision broke from the usual practice under China’s zero-covid policy.

In Zhengzhou, the site of a major Foxconn factory that makes Apple iPhones, which has been the scene of labor unrest over Covid, officials announced an “orderly” reopening of businesses including supermarkets, gyms and restaurants.

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

Hours before those announcements, national health officials said on Tuesday that China would respond to “urgent concerns” raised by the public and that the COVID rules should be implemented more flexibly to suit each region’s conditions.

But while easing some measures appears to be an attempt to appease the public, authorities have begun hunting down those involved in recent protests.

“The police came to my door to ask me about this and get me to complete a written report,” a Beijing resident, who declined to be identified, told Reuters on Wednesday.

Another resident said some friends who had posted videos of the protests on social media were taken to the police station and asked to sign a pledge “not to do so again”.

It’s unclear how authorities identified and questioned the people they wanted, and how many people the authorities contacted.

Beijing’s Public Security Bureau declined to comment.

On Wednesday, several police cars and security personnel were stationed at the East Beijing Bridge, where a protest took place three days ago.

‘enemy forces’

In a statement that did not specify the protests, the Communist Party’s top body in charge of law enforcement agencies said late Tuesday that China would resolutely crack down on “infiltration and sabotage activities by hostile forces.”

The Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission has also said that “illegal and criminal activities that disturb social order” will not be tolerated.

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

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

Despite the fact that China has largely isolated itself from the world, China has largely isolated itself from the rest of the world, costing hundreds of millions of lives in compliance with three years of relentless testing and prolonged quarantine.

Although the number of infections and deaths is low by global standards, reopening before increasing vaccination rates could lead to widespread illness and death and overwhelm hospitals, analysts say.

Lockdowns have crippled the economy, disrupted global supply chains and roiled financial markets.

Data on Wednesday showed China’s manufacturing and services activity for November posted the lowest readings since Shanghai’s two-month lockdown began in April. read more

Chinese stocks (.SSEC), (.CSI300) Markets are weighing sustained economic weakness against hopes that public pressure will push China to reopen.

International Monetary Fund chief Kristalina Georgieva has flagged a possible downgrade in China’s growth forecasts.

Additional reporting by Eduardo Baptista and Yu Lun Tian in Beijing; By Marius Zaharia; Editing by Michael Perry, Robert Birsal

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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