The Chinese government is facing its biggest wave of public protests in a decade. Chinese universities are now sending students home to tighten Covid restrictions.
A heavy contingent of police has been deployed to control the protests against the lockdown in China. Chinese policemen were seen patrolling the streets of cities like Beijing and Shanghai in large numbers on Tuesday. Across China, people have taken to the streets to protest against strict Covid restrictions. The recent protests are the biggest wave of civil disobedience since Chinese President Xi Jinping came to power a decade ago. China’s zero-covid policy has affected the lives of millions of people, damaged the economy and disrupted global supply chains.
Protesters are now calling for President Xi Jinping to step down. Chinese universities are now sending students home in an attempt to tighten Covid restrictions and prevent further protests.
Residents in various Chinese cities told various media outlets that police are examining their phones to check for suspicious content, use of virtual private networks (VPNs) or the Telegram app. Telegram is being used to coordinate protests.
Using a VPN is illegal in China and the Telegram app is blocked from the internet. “We are all scrupulously deleting our chat history,” one person who attended the protests in Beijing told Reuters. There are too many police. The police came to check the ID of one of my friends and then took him away. We don’t know why. A few hours later they released him.”
Police in Beijing specifically patrolled the Liangma River, which is very close to the diplomatic zone and where hundreds of protesters had gathered on Sunday evening. DW’s East Asia correspondent William Yang tweeted a video from the city of Guangzhou in which angry protesters can be seen destroying a Covid-testing booth. On Sunday night in Shanghai, police reportedly packed a bus with protesters.
The latest series of protests began last week after a building fire in Xinjiang’s capital Urumqi killed at least 10 people.
Western reactions to the treatment of protesters
Chinese protesters have been rallying to demand more freedom and the resignation of President Xi Jinping, who recently served a third term as China’s leader. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak warned that China now posed a ‘systemic challenge’ to British values and interests. He added that Britain must “change its approach to China.” He also condemned Monday’s attack on a BBC reporter by Chinese police.
The White House, in its response to the protests, said President Joe Biden was closely monitoring the unrest. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby added, “People should be given the right to assemble and peacefully protest policies, laws or orders that they have a problem with.”
German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier told DW that he hoped the Chinese authorities would “respect” the protesters’ freedom.
Currently, China has recorded the highest number of infections since the beginning of the Covid pandemic. The Health Commission in Beijing reported nearly 38,400 new cases on Tuesday, a slight drop from the record of more than 40,000 set a day earlier.
Many analysts believe that loosening the policies could lead to more disease and overwhelm the country’s health infrastructure. In October, President Xi defended his zero-covid strategy, saying the restrictive measures had “protected” people.
According to officials, their zero-covid policy has kept the death toll under control in the country of 1.4 billion people. An editorial in the People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, urged citizens to implement the zero-covid policy and that victory would come with “perseverance despite thousands of difficulties”. “The harder it is, the more you have to grind your teeth,” the agency added.