Chinese authorities are fighting back against widespread protests by flooding the streets with police in a strong show of force for a regime facing its most significant dissent in decades.
“I’ve wanted to speak up for a long time, but I did not get the chance to,” James Cai, a 29-year-old from Shanghai who attended a Hong Kong protest, told the Associated Press Tuesday. “If people in the mainland can’t tolerate it anymore, then I cannot as well.”
While protests continued in the more free “Special Administrative Region” of Hong Kong, Chinese police in major cities, including Shanghai and Beijing, worked to put an end to protests that had been intensifying across the country since last week.
Videos from the country have emerged in recent days showing both angry protesters and the attempted police crackdown, with protesters overturning tents at the nucleic acid testing site in Guangzhou City Monday. Meanwhile, police arrived at protests in a fire truck in Southern China and attempted to disperse protesters with a fire hose.
CHINESE POLICE GET VIOLENT AS COVID-19 LOCKDOWN PROTESTS SWEEP ACROSS THE COUNTRY
A man is arrested while people gathering on a street in Shanghai on November 27, 2022, 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 by HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP via Getty Images)
The show of force has largely worked to quiet the cities, with no word of additional protests in Shanghai or Beijing on Tuesday, according to the Associated Press.
The Chinese government has faced growing backlash to its strict antivirus measures after an apartment complex fire in the far-west region of the country resulted in the deaths of 10 people, with many pinning the local fire department’s delay getting to the scene on lockdowns resulting from China’s “zero-COVID” policy.
Protesters have called for an end to the policy, which has disrupted lives and the Chinese economy, while some have called for the resignation of the country’s top leaders.
Authorities have responded by easing some of the COVID restrictions in an attempt to relax some of the anger but have refused to back down from the country’s larger anti-COVID strategy. Instead, many localities across the country have begun a strict effort to quell any dissent to government authority.
Protesters hold up blank papers and chant slogans as they march in Beijing, Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022.
(AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)
CHINESE AUTHORITIES LOOSEN COVID-19 RESTRICTIONS IN SOME NEIGHBORHOODS AFTER PROTESTS
Chinese universities sent students home on Tuesday in addition to the increased police presence in the streets, with police making checks on people’s phones in the streets and in subway stations. One Shanghai resident, who did not give the Associated Press his name over fears of retribution, said his phone was checked at a subway station while he was on the way to a protest he read about online, but he was unable to find the protest.
Meanwhile, those who took part in protests over the weekend have reported that authorities are trying to hunt them down, according to a BBC report. Several Beijing residents told the outlet police had called them to demand information about their whereabouts.
“We are all desperately deleting our chat history,” one Beijing protester said. “Police came to check the ID of one of my friends and then took her away. A few hours later they released her.”
Chinese authorities have claimed that the unrest over the country’s COVID policies were not the fault of the national government, instead pinning the blame on local districts for sometimes having “arbitrary measures” that have angered residents.
In this photo taken on Sunday, policemen pin down and arrest a protester during a protest on a street in Shanghai.
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“[There is an] over practice of containment measures [in some localities]… that is not aligned to national policies,” Cheng You Quan of the National Disease Control and Prevention Administration said at a Tuesday press conference, according to the BBC.
“Local governments should show more responsibility and follow national guidelines, [instead of following practices like] arbitrarily stopping schools and industry,” the official added. “We should name and shame as well as pursue criminal responsibility if necessary. Lockdowns should be quick and the removal of lockdowns should be equally quick.”
Asked if the country planned on backing down from COVID measures as a result of the protests, National Health Commission Spokesman Mi Feng hinted at slight compromise.
“We are going to maintain and control the negative impact to people’s livelihoods and lives,” the spokesman said at a Tuesday press conference.