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Violent protest in Guangzhou challenges President Xi’s zero-Covid policy

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(TibetanReview.net, Nov16’22) – Protests against the severity and oppressiveness of the Covid-19 lockdown measures in China are growing bolder and now becoming even violent, according to social media postings that are quickly censored and international media reports. In southern China’s industrial metropolis Guangzhou, crowds of residents have escaped a compulsory lockdown and clashed with police on late Nov 14 evening, as anger at strict coronavirus curbs boiled over.

Dramatic footage shows some overturning a police vehicle and tearing down Covid control barriers. Riot teams have now been deployed in the area, reported the bbc.com Nov 15.

After Tibet’s capital Lhasa on Oct 26, a street protest against abusive Covid lockdown measures was reported from northeastern Chinese city of Linyi, Shandong Province, where a violent clash took place on Nov 8. The AP Nov 9 cited police as saying seven people had been arrested following a clash between residents and authorities enforcing Covid-19 quarantine restrictions.

Guangzhou is under its worst Covid outbreak since the pandemic began, reflecting the failure of the three-year-old zero-Covid policy which the government still adamantly swears by. New daily infections of Covid-19 in the city have topped 5,000 for the first time, fuelling speculation that localised lockdowns could widen, noted Reuters Nov 15.

The city’s Haizhu District, where the protest occurred, is home to many poorer itinerant labourers. They have complained of not being paid if they are unable to turn up for work, and of food shortages and skyrocketing prices while living under Covid control measures.

The bbc.com report said that for several nights, they’d been tussling with the white-clad Covid prevention enforcement officials, and then overnight on Oct 14 the anger suddenly exploded onto the streets of Guangzhou with a mass act of defiance.

The problem appear to be set to get exacerbated as there are no provinces at all which have reported zero cases in recent days, according to the report.

In the heart of western China’s megacity of Chongqing, around 20 million people in have been placed under a type of lockdown being imposed and enforced by community officials without official announcement.

Neither the Guangzhou city government nor the Guangdong provincial police have responded to Reuters‘ requests for comment.

On Nov 15, China reported 17,772 new local Covid-19 infections for Nov 14, up from 16,072 a day earlier and the most since April, even as many cities scaled back routine testing after authorities announced measures last week aimed at easing the impact of heavy coronavirus curbs, the report said.

The report noted that the Nov 14 night’s scenes from Guangzhou were the latest outpouring of frustration over Covid curbs that had triggered frequent lockdowns and enforced quarantines under a signature policy of President Xi Jinping that China argues saves lives.

The easing of Covid-19 curbs made on Nov 11 sparked a market rally on hopes that China was signalling plans to end a policy that has all-but-shut its borders and caused frequent lockdowns, possibly starting after the annual session of parliament in March.

But the report cited experts as warning that full reopening requires a massive vaccination booster effort, and would also need a change in messaging, in a country where Covid remains widely feared.

And so, the lockdown measures continue to be strict. In Shanghai, which has been reporting relatively low infection numbers, including 16 for Nov 14, apartment blocks were still being sealed off and the Shanghai Disney Resort had been shut since Oct 31 after a visitor tested positive, the report noted.

It said that while the central government had urged a more flexible approach to controlling outbreaks, risk-averse local authorities still had leeway to lock down buildings they assess as high risk.

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