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China cities under heavy policing after protests

China cities under heavy policing after protests

SHANGHAI: China’s major cities of Beijing and Shanghai were blanketed with security today (Nov 29) in the wake of nationwide rallies calling for political freedoms and an end to COVID lockdowns.


Tuesday 29 November 2022, 01:15PM

People sing slogans while gathering on a street in Shanghai yesterday (Nov 27), where protests against China’s zero-COVID policy took place the night before following a deadly fire in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang region. Photo: Hector Retamal / AFP

People sing slogans while gathering on a street in Shanghai yesterday (Nov 27), where protests against China’s zero-COVID policy took place the night before following a deadly fire in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang region. Photo: Hector Retamal / AFP

The country’s leadership is facing a wave of protest not seen in decades, fuelled by anger over the unrelenting lockdowns as well as deep-rooted frustrations over China’s political direction.

A deadly fire last week in Urumqi, the capital of northwest China’s Xinjiang region, was the catalyst for public outrage, with protesters taking to the streets of cities around the country over the weekend.

The demonstrators said COVID restrictions were to blame for hampering rescue efforts - claims the government denied as it accused “forces with ulterior motives” of linking the fire to the strict virus measures.

So many police’

Several protests were planned for last night but did not materialise, with AFP journalists in Beijing and Shanghai noting a heavy police presence of hundreds of vehicles and officers on the streets.

People who had attended rallies over the weekend told AFP yesterday they had received phone calls from law enforcement demanding information about their movements.

In Shanghai, near a site where weekend protests saw bold calls for the resignation of President Xi Jinping, bar staff told AFP they had been ordered to close at 10:00 pm (9pm Phuket time) for “disease control”.

Small clusters of officers stood outside each metro exit.

Throughout the day AFP journalists saw officers detaining four people, later releasing one, with a reporter counting 12 police cars within 100 metres along Wulumuqi street in Shanghai, the focal point of Sunday’s rally.

“The atmosphere tonight is nervy. There are so many police around,” a man in his early 30s told AFP as evening fell.

And with police cars, foot patrols, a network of surveillance cameras, and aided by the icy wind, Beijing authorities also appeared yesterday to have deterred fresh gatherings.

Elsewhere, some rallies did go ahead. In semi-autonomous Hong Kong, where mass democracy protests erupted in 2019, dozens gathered at the Chinese University to mourn the victims of the Urumqi fire.

“Don’t look away. Don’t forget,” protesters shouted.

And in Hangzhou, just over 170 kilometres (106 miles) southwest of Shanghai, there was strict security and sporadic protests in the city’s downtown, footage circulating on social media and partly geolocated by AFP showed.

Many died in vain’

China’s strict control of information and continued travel curbs has made verifying the numbers of protesters across the vast country challenging.

But such widespread rallies are exceptionally rare, with authorities harshly clamping down on all opposition to the central government.

US President Joe Biden is monitoring the unrest, the White House said yesterday.

Around the world, solidarity protests have also mushroomed.

In the United States, Chinese-speaking and Uyghur communities came together in vigils.

“Officials are borrowing the pretext of COVID, but using excessively strict lockdowns to control China’s population,” one 21-year-old Chinese attendant who gave only his surname, Chen, told AFP.

“They disregarded human lives and caused many to die in vain,” he said.

No longer afraid’

China’s leaders have remained steadfast in their commitment to zero-COVID, which compels local authorities to impose snap lockdowns, quarantine orders, and limit freedom of movement in response to minor outbreaks.

But there are signs that some local authorities are taking steps to relax some of the rules and dampen the unrest.

In Urumqi, an official said today the city would give a one-off payment of 300 yuan (B1,500) to each person with “low income or no income”, and announced a five-month rent exemption for some households.

People in the city of four million, some of whom have been confined to their homes for weeks on end, can also travel around on buses to run errands within their home districts starting today, officials said.

In Beijing, state media reported authorities had apologised for delayed deliveries to residents as online shopping demand surges due to repeated lockdowns.

The city has also banned “the practice of barring building gates in closed-off residential compounds”, Xinhua said on Sunday.

The practice has fuelled public anger as people found themselves locked in their homes during minor outbreaks.

And an influential state media commentator suggested that COVID controls could be further relaxed - while insisting the public “will soon calm down”.

“I can give an absolute prediction: China will not become chaotic or out of control,” Hu Xijian, a columnist with the state-run tabloid Global Times said on Twitter, which is banned in China.

“China may walk out of the shadow of COVID-19 sooner than expected.”

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Kurt | 01 December 2022 - 14:29:41

Is is by now clear that the Chinese vaccine Sinovac was a disaster for the chinese people. Well, to Thai Health Minister Anutin was that already in early stage clear na 2 of these vaccinations. He quickly changed to other more effetive vaccines. Took fast 4 of them! Remember? Imagine, many of the present China economic problems have their roots in that Sinovac vaccine.

Kurt | 01 December 2022 - 12:54:23

Chinese don't have communism in their blood. With chairman Mao, who is responsible for the unneeded death of many millions chinese, it was a instrument to get out of the grip of feodal rulers. The economic success of present China is not based on communism, but on entrepreneurship/business doing and hard work. That  are the Chinese tools! Present feodal rulers are the old men in CCP top.

Kurt | 01 December 2022 - 11:58:52

Seems Xi Jinping & CCP can't control longer the chinese people anymore the way they want. Many provinces/cities/factories give in to the protests of  the people. Remember, the younger generations, living in wealth have nothing with the CCP. It is just a controlling old men clan. But for how long before the balance change?

christysweet | 30 November 2022 - 11:28:56

China's gi-normous aging population would be rotting in the streets as corpses had they not done what needed to be done- they could have  used a better vaccine- kinda makes me wonder why they didn't... 

Kurt | 29 November 2022 - 18:07:05

PN reporting; Thu 24, Sun 27, Tue 29, just about China's Covid happening. Seems the Chinese vaccines  fail to get China back to normal, compared with the rest of the world that not used chinese vaccines. Wise that Xi Jinping not let his flog travel to outside China. Ontherwise Thailand would welcome them with open 'money arms', and later cry about sky rocketing Covid infections among T...


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