Chine: Loosening COVID rules after protests


Chinese authorities have relaxed some anti-virus rules but asserted their dire “no COVID” strategy on Monday after protesters demanded President Xi Jinping’s resignation during protests. biggest opposition to the ruling Communist Party in decades.

The government did not comment on the protests or criticize Mr. Xi, but the decision to relax at least some restrictions appeared to be aimed at quelling anger. However, analysts do not expect the government to abandon its COVID strategy and note that the authorities are adept at stifling dissent.

It is unclear how many people have been detained since protests began on Friday and spread to cities including Shanghai, the country’s financial hub and the capital Beijing.

The Beijing city government announced on Monday that it will no longer set up gates to block entrances to apartment complexes where cases are found. It did not refer to a deadly fire last week that sparked protests following questions about whether firefighters or victims trying to escape were blocked by locked doors or other anti-virus controls or not.

“The passageways must be clear for medical transport, emergency exits and rescue,” said Wang Daguang, a city official in charge of disease control.

In addition, the southern commercial and manufacturing city of Guangzhou, the biggest hotspot in China’s latest wave of infections, has announced that some residents will no longer have to undergo mass testing. It cites a need to conserve resources.

Urumqi, the site of the deadly fire, and another city in the northwest Xinjiang region have announced that markets and other businesses in areas deemed low risk of infection will open. return this week and public bus service will resume.

“Zero COVID,” which aims to isolate everyone infected, has helped keep China’s number of cases lower than that of the United States and other major countries. But it has kept millions of people indoors for up to four months, and some have complained about a lack of food and reliable medical supplies.

The ruling party promised last month to ease disruption by changing quarantine and other rules. But public acceptance is dwindling after a spike in infections prompted cities to tighten controls.

On Monday, the number of new daily cases rose to 40,347, of which 36,525 were asymptomatic.

The ruling party’s People’s Daily called for an effective anti-virus strategy, suggesting Xi’s government has no plans to change course.

“Practice has fully demonstrated that each version of the prevention and control plan has stood the test of reality,” wrote one People’s Daily commentator.

Protests spread to at least eight major cities. Most of the protesters complained about the excessive restrictions, but some turned angry at Xi, China’s most powerful leader since at least the 1980s. In a video that was released by the firm. As AP verified, a crowd in Shanghai on Saturday chanted, “Xi Jinping! Resign! CCP! Resign!”

Hours after police dispersed the protest, people returned to their old positions on Sunday for another protest. Dozens of people were detained during police raids and driven away in police cars and buses, though the exact number is unclear.

In one sweep witnessed by an AP journalist, officers charged and handled bystanders at an intersection near the site of previous protests, although bystanders The meeting did not chant or express dissent in any visible way.

British Broadcasting Corp. said one of its reporters was beaten, kicked, handcuffed and detained by Shanghai police for several hours but was later released.

The BBC criticized what it said was the Chinese government’s explanation that its reporter had been detained to prevent him from catching the coronavirus from the crowd. “We do not consider this a reliable explanation,” the broadcaster said in a statement.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the BBC reporter had not been identified and “did not voluntarily present” his press certificate.

“Foreign journalists need to consciously abide by China’s laws and regulations,” Zhao said.

Swiss broadcaster RTS said the reporter and one of its cameramen were detained during a live broadcast but released minutes later. An Associated Press journalist was detained but later released.

Witnesses told the AP about protests taking place in Guangzhou and Chengdu in the southwest. Videos that said they were filmed in Nanjing to the east, Chongqing to the southwest and other cities show protesters scuffled with police wearing white protective gear or removing barricades set up used to blockade neighborhoods. The AP could not verify that all of those protests took place or where.

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