China protests grow, reports indicate that there have been clashes with Shanghai police officers

Hundreds of protesters and police clashed in Shanghai as protests over China’s severe COVID-19 restrictions continued for a third day and spread to several other cities.

The latest protests, unprecedented in mainland China since President Xi Jinping took power a decade ago, began after 10 people died in a fire in Urumqi, the capital of the western Xinjiang region, which many of the protesters attributed to prolonged COVID. -19 blocks.

The deaths have become a lightning rod of frustrations over Beijing’s dogged commitment to zero-COVID and its combination of strict lockdowns, mass testing and tracking that continues to hamper people’s lives three years after the first cases of the virus were detected. then unknown virus in the central city of Wuhan.

“I’m here because I love my country, but I don’t love my government… I want to be able to go out freely, but I can’t. Our COVID-19 policy is a game and not based on science or reality,” protester Shaun Xiao told Reuters news agency in Shanghai, China’s largest city.

Hundreds of people gathered in the city on Sunday night, holding up blank sheets of paper as an expression of the censorship of the protest, as police maintained a heavy presence on Wulumuqi Road, named after Urumqi, and where a candlelight vigil on Saturday turned into a protest.

Protesters and police clashed in Shanghai, with the BBC reporting that one of its journalists had been beaten and detained by officers. [Reuters]

A Reuters witness saw police escorting people to a bus which then drove away through the crowd with a few dozen people on board. An accredited BBC reporter covering the protests was assaulted and detained for several hours, the UK public broadcaster said.

“The BBC is extremely concerned about the treatment of our journalist Ed Lawrence, who was arrested and handcuffed while covering the protests in Shanghai,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

“He was held for several hours before being released. During his arrest, the police beat and kicked him.”

‘We want freedom’

Protesters also took to the streets of Wuhan and Chengdu on Sunday, while students from many of China’s university campuses gathered to demonstrate over the weekend.

In Beijing early Monday morning, two groups of protesters totaling at least 1,000 gathered along the Chinese capital’s Third Ring Road near the Liangma River and refused to disperse.

“We don’t want masks, we want freedom. We don’t want COVID tests, we want freedom,” one of the groups sang earlier.

Thursday’s fire in Urumqi was followed by crowds that took to the city streets on Friday night, chanting “End the lockdown!” and raising his fists in the air, according to unverified videos on social media.

On Sunday, a large crowd gathered in the southwestern metropolis of Chengdu, according to videos on social media. There, they also held up blank sheets of paper and chanted: “We don’t want rulers for life. We don’t want emperors,” a reference to Xi, who removed presidential term limits.

In Wuhan, videos on social media showed hundreds of residents pouring into the streets, breaking down metal barricades, overturning COVID testing tents and demanding an end to lockdowns.

Other cities that have seen public dissent include Lanzhou in the northwest. Protesters said they were put on lockdown even though no one had tested positive.

“People have been incredibly patient with the lockdown measures, but the authorities must not abuse emergency policies,” Amnesty International Deputy Regional Director Hana Young said in a statement. “These unprecedented protests show that people are at the end of their tolerance for excessive Covid-19 restrictions.

“The Chinese government must immediately review its Covid-19 policies to ensure that they are proportionate and time-limited. All quarantine measures that pose a threat to personal safety and unnecessarily restrict freedom of movement must be suspended.”

pressure in the match

China has stuck to Xi’s zero-COVID policy even as much of the world has lifted most pandemic-related restrictions, but the emergence of more communicable variants has undermined the effectiveness of measures to eradicate the virus.

While low by global standards, China’s case numbers have been hitting record highs for days, with more than 40,000 new cases reported by authorities in their Monday update.

Beijing has defended the policy as a lifeline and necessary to avoid overwhelming the health system, but has shifted its approach after a prolonged lockdown in Shanghai earlier this year sparked anger and frustration among the city’s 25 million residents.

The National Health Commission has sent officials to various local authorities to help implement the new policies and “rectify some problems,” and avoid a “one size fits all” approach and “excessive policy steps” to address outbreaks, the Global Times administered by the state. reported on Monday.

He noted that authorities in the eastern city of Hefei had issued a list of 16 “don’ts” including not sealing or welding doors for people in home quarantine, while in central Zhengzhou, officials they clarified that a “stay-at-home” meant that residents would still be allowed to leave for medical treatment, emergencies, escape and rescue.

A Heavy Police Presence At A Protest Against Covid-19 Restrictions In Beijing, China.
There was a heavy police presence at the protest in Beijing. [Thomas Peter/Reuters]

In Urumqi, where many of the four million residents of the regional capital have been barred from leaving their homes for up to 100 days, authorities have denied that COVID-19 lockdown measures have hampered escape efforts and rescue in the fire on Thursday.

Yet frustration is boiling over a little over a month after Xi secured a third term as leader of the Communist Party of China.

“This will put a lot of pressure on the party to respond. It is very likely that one response will be a crackdown, and some protesters will be arrested and prosecuted,” said Dan Mattingly, an assistant professor of political science at Yale University.

Still, he warned, the riots are far from those seen in 1989 when protests culminated in a bloody crackdown in Tiananmen Square.

He added that as long as Xi had China’s elite and military on his side, he would not face any significant risk in his hold on power.

“The tragedy of the Urumqi fire has inspired remarkable courage across China. Unfortunately, China’s playbook is too predictable,” Amnesty’s Young said. “Censorship and surveillance will continue, and we will most likely see the use of force by police and mass arrests of protesters in the coming hours and days. Long prison sentences are also expected against peaceful protesters.”

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Merry C. Vega is a highly respected and accomplished news author. She began her career as a journalist, covering local news for a small-town newspaper. She quickly gained a reputation for her thorough reporting and ability to uncover the truth.

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