Anti-Lockdown Protesters Clash With Guangzhou Cops

(MENAFN- Asia Times)

While Chinese protesters clashed late Tuesday with armed police in a district in southern China's Guangzhou that had been locked down for about a month, protesters in other key cities such as Beijing and Shanghai seemed to be taking a break as large numbers of police were deployed on the streets.

Chen Wenqing, party secretary of the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission and one of the 24 politburo members, said Beijing would resolutely crack down on the hostile forces' infiltration and sabotage activities in accordance with the law.

US Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns said Tuesday that China shouldn't interfere with“extraordinary” protests against strict Covid curbs. Burns said Chinese people had a right to protest peacefully and make their views known.

Meanwhile, Hong Kong's Secretary for Security Chris Tang said there were some initial signs that a“color revolution,” similar to the anti-extradition protests in 2019, was coming back to the financial hub as some people had recently rallied in the name of mourning the fire victims in Xinjiang.

On Tuesday, China reported a total of 37,612 Covid cases, including 4,235 patients with symptoms and 33,376 asymptomatic ones. Guangzhou recorded 7,600 cases, the highest among all Chinese cities.

After the State Council's Comprehensive Team for Joint Prevention and Control Mechanism for Covid-19 on Tuesday urged local governments to minimize the impact of lockdowns on the public, many cities have reopened their sealed-off areas and reduced Covid tests. 

In Guangzhou, the local government announced on Wednesday that most districts in the city, except Haizhu and Yuexiu, would end the lockdown measures. But dine-in services at restaurants in 11 districts in Guangzhou will remain suspended.

Guangzhou's Haizhu district has been categorized as a high-risk area for over a month. Video footage widely circulated on social media on Tuesday showed that some protesters were throwing glass bottles at law enforcement officers, who were wearing full personal protective equipment with shields.

Other videos on Weibo showed that police had fired tear gas canisters to disperse the crowd after a few Molotov cocktails were thrown. Then the police charged into the district and took away some people in handcuffs.

A netizen said the incidents happened at around 11 pm on Tuesday. He said the protests broke out as some small manufacturers in a production site in Haojiao tried to ship their products but were ordered by the local authorities to transport them by hand trucks and pay 100 yuan (US$14.1) each.

Saying that the Haojiao area had been locked down for about a month, he ventured that he could not see any chance of its returning to normal in the short run. He said about 500 to 600 armed police were deployed to the area while several hundred residents came out to see the standoff between the police and protesters.

At the same time, a large number of students were queuing up at the Guangzhou train station as they were ordered by their schools to leave campuses immediately and return to their hometowns for holidays. Traffic jams were seen as factory workers who were affected by lockdown measures were leaving the city.

National security chief Chen Wenqing on Monday chaired a meeting of the Central Political and Legal Affairs Commission, calling on all members to adhere to the people-centered approach and enhance political judgment, comprehension and execution. His speech was made public on Tuesday evening.

“It is necessary to resolve conflicts and disputes in a timely manner and help solve the practical difficulties of the people,” Chen said.“We must resolutely crack down on illegal and criminal acts that disrupt social order, and effectively maintain overall social stability.”

He did not directly comment on the recent anti-lockdown protests in major cities, which were held over the weekend to oppose China's stringent Covid rules.

Chinese protesters first emerged after 10 people died in a fire in a residential building in Urumqi in northwestern China's Xinjiang on November 24. They said lockdown measures had slowed fire and rescue services. The government denied the deaths were caused by the lockdowns.

To mourn the victims of the accident, people in other Chinese cities held protests by holding blank sheets of white paper signifying opposition to the country's zero-Covid rules.

Chinese people protesting against Covid restrictions in Beijing. Similar protests have spread across the country. Image: Screengrab / Skynews

On November 27, some mainland students in the University of Hong Kong held a mourning session on the campus. The university's security department called the police, who only checked the identities of the students and asked them to leave without arresting them. Similar mourning events were seen at other universities in Hong Kong.

Tang said Wednesday that he was aware of some signs of social instability as some people had recently held anti-China activities in Hong Kong in the name of mourning the deaths in Xinjiang. He said these protests were well organized with the characteristics of a“color revolution.”

Tang said the management of universities had the responsibility to prevent people from using university campuses as bases for violent protests. He also said young people should not be motivated to break the law.

Since early 2020, the Hong Kong police have forbidden all protests in the city for public health reasons. After the National Security Law was implemented on June 30, 2020, almost 200 politicians, activists and media workers have been arrested. 

read: china's covid protest blame game fingers foreign powers

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