SHANGHAI/BEIJING (Reuters) – People in Guangzhou, China’s manufacturing hub, clashed with white riot police wearing hazmat protective gear on Tuesday night, videos on social media showed, as frustration with strict COVID-19 rules boiled over. 19 three years later. epidemic.
Clashes in the southern city constituted an escalation of protests In the commercial center of Shanghai, the capital, Beijing other cities Over the weekend in China, the biggest wave of civil disobedience since President Xi Jinping took power a decade ago.
Discontent is growing with the collapse of China’s coronavirus-hit economy after decades of rapid growth, which formed the basis of an unwritten social contract between the ruling Communist Party and a population whose freedoms were greatly curtailed under Xi.
In a video posted to Twitter, dozens of riot police dressed all in white and holding shields over their heads advanced in formation over what appeared to have been pulled down lockdown barriers as objects flew over them.
Police were later seen escorting a line of bound people to an unknown location.
Another video clip showed people throwing things at the police, while a third clip showed a tear gas canister that fell in a small crowd in a narrow street, while people were then running to escape the fumes.
Reuters verified that the videos were filmed in the Hezhou district of Guangzhou, which witnessed unrest related to the Corona virus two weeks ago, but was unable to determine when the clips were taken or the exact sequence of events and what sparked the clashes.
Posts on social media said the clashes took place on Tuesday night and were sparked by a dispute over lockdown restrictions.
The government of Guangzhou, a city hit hard in the latest wave of infections, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The China Descent Monitor, which is run by the US government-funded Freedom House, estimated that at least 27 demonstrations took place across China from Saturday to Monday. The Australian ASPI think tank estimated 43 protests in 22 cities.
Loosen the arms
Home to many migrant factory workers, Guangzhou is a sprawling port city north of Hong Kong in Guangdong province where officials announced late Tuesday that they would allow close contacts of COVID cases to quarantine at home instead of forcing them to go to shelters.
The decision goes against standard practice under China’s policy on non-spreading of the coronavirus.
In Zhengzhou, the site of a huge Foxconn factory that makes Apple iPhones that has been the scene of worker disruption due to COVID, officials announced an “orderly” resumption of businesses, including supermarkets, gyms and restaurants.
However, they have also posted a long list of buildings that will remain under closure.
Hours before those 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, according to the circumstances of each region.
But while the relaxation of some measures, which comes as China posts daily record numbers of COVID cases, appears to be an attempt to appease the public, authorities have also begun searching for those who took part in the recent protests.
“The police came to my door asking me everything and asking me to complete a written record,” a Beijing resident, who asked not to be identified, told Reuters on Wednesday.
Another resident said that some friends who posted videos of the protests on social media were taken to a police station and asked to sign a pledge that they would “never do it again.”
It was not clear how the authorities determined the people they wanted to question, nor how many people the authorities had contacted.
The Beijing Public Security Bureau did not comment.
On Wednesday, several police cars and security personnel were deployed on a bridge in eastern Beijing where a protest was held three days earlier.
In a statement that made no mention of the protests, the top body responsible for law enforcement agencies of the Communist Party said late Tuesday that China would resolutely crack down on “infiltration and sabotage by hostile forces.”
The Central Committee for Political and Legal Affairs also said that “illegal and criminal acts that disturb social order” would not be tolerated.
The State Department said that rights and freedoms must be exercised within the framework of the law.
White House national security spokesman John Kirby said on Tuesday that protesters in China should not be harmed.
COVID has spread despite China largely isolating itself from the world and demanding great sacrifices from hundreds of millions of people to comply with relentless testing and prolonged isolation.
While infection and death numbers are low by global standards, analysts say reopening the door before vaccination rates increase could lead to more morbidity and death and overwhelmed hospitals.
The lockdown has hurt the economy, disrupted global supply chains and rattled financial markets.
Data on Wednesday showed that China’s manufacturing and services activity for November posted the lowest readings since Shanghai’s two-month lockdown began in April. Read more
The head of the International Monetary Fund, Kristalina Georgieva, has indicated that China’s growth forecasts may be lowered.
Additional reporting by Eduardo Baptista and Yu Luntian in Beijing. Written by Marius Zaharia. Editing by Michael Berry, Robert Purcell
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