COVID protests escalate in Guangzhou as China lockdown anger boils

  • Riot police in hazmat suits clashed with protesters
  • Estimated 27-43 protests in 22 cities across China
  • The biggest day of civil disobedience since 1989 at Tiananmen
  • The COVID-19 shutdown, protests hit China’s economy

SHANGHAI/BEIJING, Nov 30 (Reuters) – People at a Chinese manufacturing site in Guangzhou clashed with hazmat-clad riot police on Tuesday night, online videos showed, the latest in protests that have escalated over the weekend due to strict COVID-19 lockdowns. .

The clashes, which followed protests in Shanghai, Beijing and elsewhere, erupted as China recorded daily numbers of new COVID-19 cases and health officials, including in the southern region around Guangzhou, announced a small easing of restrictions.

China’s biggest day of civil unrest since the 1989 Tiananmen protests comes as its economy slows after decades of slow growth.

That period of prosperity was crucial to the social contract between the Communist Party and citizens whose freedoms have been severely curtailed since President Xi Jinping took power 10 years ago.

In one video posted on Twitter, dozens of riot police in white riot gear, carrying shields over their heads, advanced in formation around what appeared to be broken down barricades as objects flew at them.

Later the police were seen escorting a series of handcuffed people to an unknown location.

One video clip showed people throwing objects at police, while a third showed a canister of tear gas landing in a small crowd on a narrow street, with people running away from the smoke.

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Reuters confirmed that the videos were filmed in Guangzhou’s Haizhu district, the scene of the COVID-related unrest two weeks ago, but could not determine when the clips were taken or the sequence of events and what caused the clashes.

Social media said the collision happened on Tuesday night and was caused by a disagreement over blocked roads.

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

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

METHODS OF REPORTING

Home to many migrant factory workers, Guangzhou is a port city north of Hong Kong in Guangdong province, where officials announced late Tuesday that they will allow close contacts of COVID cases to be isolated at home rather than forced into shelters.

The decision deviated from the normal process under China’s zero-COVID policy.

In Zhengzhou, the site of the giant Foxconn factory that makes Apple’s iPhones that has been the scene of labor unrest due to COVID, officials announced the “orderly” reopening of businesses, including supermarkets, gyms and restaurants.

However, they have published a long list of properties that will remain closed.

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 flexibly, according to each region’s conditions.

But while the relaxation of some measures seems to be trying to appease the public, the authorities have started to look for those who were involved in the recent protests.

“The police came to my front door to question me about everything and make me complete a written record,” a Beijing resident who declined to be identified told Reuters on Wednesday.

One resident said some friends who posted videos of the protest on social media were taken to the police station and asked to sign a promise that they would “not do that again”.

It is not clear how authorities identified the people they want to question, or how many authorities contacted them.

The Beijing Public Security Bureau did not respond.

On Wednesday, dozens of police and security vehicles were sent to the bridge east of Beijing where protests took place three days earlier.

‘YOUTH ORGANIZATIONS’

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

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

The Foreign Office said the rights and freedoms must be exercised in accordance with the law.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby said Tuesday that the Chinese protesters would not be harmed.

COVID has spread without China being isolated from the world and requiring significant sacrifices from hundreds of millions to comply with the endless testing and isolation for a long time, three years in this epidemic.

While infection and death rates are low by global standards, analysts say reopening before increasing vaccination rates could lead to widespread illness and death and hospital overcrowding.

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

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

Chinese stocks (.SSEC), (.CSI300) were steady, with markets weighing on the economy against hopes that public pressure could push China to finally reopen.

International Monetary Fund chief Kristalina Georgieva noted a possible downgrade to China’s growth forecast.

Additional reporting by Eduardo Baptista and Yew Lun Tian in Beijing; Written by Marius Zaharia; Editing by Michael Perry, Robert Birsel

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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