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Clashes in Guangzhou as China tries to quell COVID protests

Clashes in Guangzhou as China tries to quell COVID protests
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  • Riot police in hazmat suits clash with protesters
  • Estimated 27-43 protests in 22 cities in China
  • One of the biggest acts of public defiance in a decade.
  • Authorities investigate protesters as security is tightened

SHANGHAI/BEIJING, Nov 30 (Reuters) – People in the Chinese city of Guangzhou clashed with riot police in hazmat suits on Tuesday night as authorities investigated more than those involved in a series of raids. protests against the world’s toughest COVID-19 restrictions. . .

The demonstrations, which intensified over the weekend and spread to Shanghai, Beijing and elsewhereare one 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 across the country, there appears little prospect of a major radical change in a policy that Xi has said saves. lives and has proclaimed. as one of his political achievements.

In announcing the lifting of lockdowns in parts of Guangzhou, authorities made no mention of the protests and the district where violence broke out on Tuesday remained under tight controls.

In a video of those clashes posted on Twitter, dozens of riot police dressed in white protective suits and holding shields above their heads, advanced in formation over what appeared to be torn down blocking barriers as objects flew towards them.

Police were later seen escorting a line of handcuffed people.

Another video clip showed people throwing objects at police, while a third showed a tear gas canister falling into a small crowd in a narrow street, causing people to run to escape the gas.

Reuters verified that the videos were filmed in Guangzhou’s Haizhu district, the scene of incidents related to COVID-19. rest 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 caused by a dispute over lockdown restrictions.

The Guangzhou government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The China Dissent Monitor, run by the US government-funded Freedom House, estimated that at least 27 demonstrations took place in China between Saturday and Monday. Australia’s ASPI think tank estimated 43 protests in 22 cities.

RELAXATION OF URINES

In addition to the relaxation of sidewalks in Guangzhou, in Zhengzhou, the site of a large Foxconn factory that makes Apple iPhones that has been the scene of worker unrest over COVID, officials announced an “orderly” resumption of business, including supermarkets, gyms and restaurants. . .

However, they also posted a long list of buildings that would remain closed.

Hours before those announcements, national health officials said China would respond to “urgent concerns” raised by the public and that COVID rules should be implemented more flexibly, based on conditions in a region.

But while the easing of some measures appears to be an attempt to appease the public, the authorities have also begun to Search those who have been in the protests.

“Police came to my doorstep to ask me about everything and make me fill out a written record,” a Beijing resident who declined to be named told Reuters on Wednesday.

Another resident said some friends who posted videos of protests on social media were taken to a police station and asked to sign a promise that they “wouldn’t do that again.”

Several people gave similar accounts to Reuters on Tuesday.

It was not clear how authorities identified the people they wanted to question, nor how many of those people authorities contacted.

The Beijing Public Security Bureau had no comment.

Analysts from The Economist Intelligence Unit said in a note that authorities would likely respond to protests with greater security while emphasizing plans to loosen restrictions “while avoiding presenting themselves as having caved in to the demands of protesters”.

‘HOSTILE FORCES’

In a statement that did not refer to the protests, the Communist Party’s top law enforcement body said late Tuesday that China will crack down on “infiltration and sabotage activities by hostile forces.”

The Central Commission for Political and Legal Affairs also said that “illegal and criminal acts that disturb the social order” would not be tolerated.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said that rights and freedoms must be exercised within the law.

COVID has spread despite China largely isolating itself from the world, demanding significant sacrifices of hundreds of millions to comply with relentless testing and prolonged isolation, three years into the pandemic.

While infection and death numbers are low by global standards, analysts say a reopening before vaccination rates increase could lead to widespread illness and death and overwhelm hospitals.

The lockdowns have battered the economy, disrupting global supply chains and roiling 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) they held steady, with markets weighing endemic economic weakness against hopes that public pressure could push China to eventually reopen.

The head of the International Monetary Fund, Kristalina Georgieva, signaled a possible downgrade in China’s growth forecasts.

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

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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