- Riot police in hazmat suits confront protesters
- Estimate of 27 to 43 protests in 22 cities in China
- One of the greatest acts of public defiance in a decade
- Authorities probe protesters as security tightens
SHANGHAI/BEIJING, Nov 30 (Reuters) – Residents of the Chinese city of Guangzhou clashed on Tuesday night with riot police in hazmat suits as authorities investigated more people who took part in the a series of protests against the world’s toughest COVID-19 restrictions. .
The protests, which escalated over the weekend as they spread to Shanghai, Beijing and somewhere elseare part of greatest acts of public defiance seen since President Xi Jinping came to power in 2012.
The southern city of Guangzhou became the latest to announce an easing of restrictions on Wednesday, but with a record number of cases nationwide, a major reversal in a policy that Xi says is saving lives seems unlikely. and proclaimed as one of his political achievements.
Announcing the lifting of lockdowns in parts of Guangzhou, authorities did not mention the protests and the neighborhood where the violence erupted on Tuesday remained under tight control.
In video of the clashes posted to Twitter, dozens of riot police dressed in white protective suits and holding shields above their heads, advanced in formation on what appeared to have been torn down from the lockdown barriers then that objects were flying towards them.
Police were then seen escorting a row of handcuffed people.
Another video clip showed people throwing objects at police, while a third showed a tear gas canister landing in the middle of a small crowd in a narrow street, sending people running to escape the fumes.
Reuters verified that the videos were filmed in Guangzhou’s Haizhu district, the scene of COVID-related events troubles two weeks ago but could not determine when the clips were taken or the exact sequence of events and what sparked the clashes.
Social media posts said the clashes took place on Tuesday night and were caused by a dispute over lockdown curbs.
The Guangzhou government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
China Dissent Monitor, run by the US government-funded Freedom House, estimated that at least 27 protests took place across China from Saturday to Monday. Australian think tank ASPI estimated 43 protests in 22 cities.
In addition to easing curbs in Guangzhou, Zhengzhou, the site of a major Foxconn factory making Apple iPhones that has been the scene of worker unrest over COVID, officials announced the “orderly” resumption of businesses, including supermarkets, gyms and restaurants.
However, they also released a long list of buildings that would remain under lock and key.
Hours before the announcements, national health officials said China would respond to “urgent concerns” raised by the public and that COVID rules should be implemented more flexibly, depending on conditions in a region.
But while the easing of some measures appears to be an attempt to appease the public, authorities have also begun to to research those who participated in the protests.
“The police came to my front door to ask me about all this and make me fill out a written file,” a Beijing resident who declined to be identified told Reuters on Wednesday.
Another resident said friends who posted videos of the protests on social media were taken to the police station and asked to sign a pledge that they “wouldn’t do this again”.
Several people gave similar accounts to Reuters on Tuesday.
It was unclear how authorities identified the people they wanted to interview, or how many of those people they contacted.
The Beijing Public Security Bureau did not comment.
Economist Intelligence Unit analysts said in a memo authorities would likely respond to protests with increased security while emphasizing plans to ease restrictions “while avoiding portraying themselves as having bowed to demands Some protestors”.
In a statement that does not refer to the protests, the Communist Party’s top law enforcement body said Tuesday night that China will resolutely crack down on “the infiltration and sabotage activities of hostile forces”.
The Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission also said that “illegal and criminal acts that disturb social order” would not be tolerated.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has stated that rights and freedoms must be exercised within the framework of the law.
COVID has spread despite China largely isolating itself from the world and demanding significant sacrifices from hundreds of millions of people to comply with relentless testing and prolonged isolation, three years into the outbreak. the pandemic.
While the number of infections and deaths is low by global standards, analysts say reopening before vaccination rates increase could lead to widespread illness and death and overwhelm hospitals.
The shutdowns have hammered the economy, disrupting global supply chains and disrupting financial markets.
Data on Wednesday showed China’s manufacturing and services activity for November posted the lowest readings since Shanghai’s two-month lockdown began in April. Read more
Chinese stocks (.SSEC), (.CSI300) were flat, with markets weighing endemic economic weakness against hopes that public pressure could push China to reopen eventually.
International Monetary Fund Director Kristalina Georgieva has signaled a possible downward revision to China’s growth forecast.
Additional reporting by Eduardo Baptista and Yew Lun Tian in Beijing; Written by Marius Zaharia and John Geddie; Editing by Michael Perry, Robert Birsel
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