COVID protests escalate in Guangzhou as China lockdown anger boils

  • Riot police in hazmat uniforms clashed with the protesters
  • 27 to 43 demonstrations are estimated in 22 cities across China
  • The biggest wave of civil disobedience since 1989 Tiananmen
  • Covid quarantines, protests hit China’s economy

SHANGHAI/BEIJING, Nov 30 (Reuters) – People in China’s manufacturing hub of Guangzhou clashed with uniformed riot police on Tuesday night, the latest in a string of protests that escalated over the weekend due to the outbreak of the coronavirus, online videos showed. White got involved. 19 Quarantine

The clashes, which followed protests in Shanghai, Beijing and elsewhere, came as China posted a daily record number of new Covid-19 cases and health officials, including in the southern region around Guangzhou, announced a slight easing of restrictions.

China’s biggest wave of civil disobedience since the Tiananmen protests in 1989 comes as the country’s economy collapses after decades of booming growth.

That boom was fundamental to the social contract between the Communist Party and a population whose freedoms have been severely curtailed since President Xi Jinping took office 10 years ago.

In one video posted on Twitter, dozens of riot police in their all-white uniforms, holding shields above their heads, marched in what appeared to be collapsing barricades as objects flew at them. .

Police were later escorting a line of handcuffed people to an undisclosed location.

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

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Reuters confirmed the videos were filmed in Guangzhou’s Haizhou 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 or what sparked the clashes. .

Social media posts say the clashes took place on Tuesday night and were sparked by a dispute over quarantine restrictions.

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

China’s opposition watchdog, run by the US government-funded Freedom House, estimated that at least 27 demonstrations were held across China from Saturday to Monday. Australia’s ASPI think tank estimated 43 protests in 22 cities.

Reduce restrictions

Home to many migrant factory workers, Guangzhou is a sprawling port city north of Hong Kong in Guangdong province, where authorities announced late Tuesday that they would allow close contacts of those infected with Covid-19 to self-quarantine at home to force them into shelters.

This decision was defeated by the usual procedure under the zero-covid policy in China.

In Zhengzhou, home to the giant Foxconn factory that makes Apple’s iPhones, which has been the scene of worker unrest over Covid, officials announced the “orderly” reopening of businesses, including supermarkets, gyms and restaurants.

However, they also released a long list of buildings that remain in quarantine.

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

But while the easing of some measures appears to be an attempt to appease the public, authorities have also begun searching for those involved in the recent protests.

“The police came to my door to ask me about everything and ask me to fill out a written report,” one Beijing resident, who did not want to be named, told Reuters on Wednesday.

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

It was not clear how authorities identified the people they wanted to question, nor was it clear how many of those people they contacted.

The Beijing Public Security Bureau did not comment.

On Wednesday, several police cars and security personnel were stationed at Beijing’s East Bridge, where a demonstration was held three days earlier.

“hostile forces”

In a statement that did not mention 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 subversive activities by hostile forces.”

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

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said that rights and freedoms must be applied within the framework of the law.

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

Covid has spread despite China largely isolating itself from the world, demanding significant sacrifices from hundreds of millions of people to comply with relentless testing and prolonged isolation, three years into the pandemic.

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

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

China’s manufacturing and service activity in November fell to the lowest level since Shanghai’s two-month lockdown began in April, data showed on Wednesday. read more

Chinese stocks ( .SSEC ), ( .CSI300 ) were flat, as markets weighed domestic economic weakness against hopes that public pressure could eventually push China to reopen.

Kristalina Georgieva, head of the International Monetary Fund, announced a possible downgrade in China’s growth forecast.

Additional reporting by Eduardo Baptista and Yu Lun Tian in Beijing. written by Marius Zaharia; Edited by Michael Perry, Robert Birsel

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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