The Chinese Communist Party, through its state propaganda outlets, insisted that it would not relent on its brutal lockdown and quarantine policies known as “zero Covid” on Monday, apparently responding to, but not acknowledging, protests in major cities nationwide over the weekend.
Beijing has insisted on “zero Covid” for nearly three years, abruptly trapping people in their homes and often leaving them without food or basic medicine. The Chinese government announced its first deaths attributed to a Chinese coronavirus infection in six months last week – three people over the age of 87 – meaning that, by the regime’s own tally, more people have died as a result of lockdowns, forced internment in quarantine camps, and other “zero Covid” policies than by Chinese coronavirus infections.
Chinese citizens have staged protests, some of them violent, against the policies since at least March 2020, when a group of people in Hubei province – where Wuhan, the origin city of the virus, is located – brawled with police and overturned police cars in an attempt to leave their province. The NGO Freedom House observed in a report this month that protests have slowly increased in frequency until becoming a “daily” occurrence this year.
Simultaneous protests erupted over the weekend in some of the nation’s largest cities – Shanghai, Beijing, and Guangzhou, among others – against the Communist Party’s lockdown and quarantine policies, apparently triggered by disgust at authorities failing to properly address a high-rise residential fire in Urumqi, occupied East Turkistan, last week. As the building was under a coronavirus lockdown, firemen could not reach it through barricades, resulting in at least ten and as many as 40 deaths, including children. The Communist Party denied any relationship between the deaths and “zero Covid” policy.
China is currently committing genocide against the Uyghur indigenous population of East Turkistan.
The Chinese government’s Global Times propaganda outlet insisted on Monday that authorities had “optimized” their lockdown protocol to improve its efficiency, touting new policies such as allowing those who live in areas not documenting any coronavirus cases to avoid mandatory testing. The Global Times did not mention the protests, but listed the cities with the largest protests – Beijing, Guangzhou, Chongqing, and Zhengzhou – as those “optimizing” their policies. It nonetheless warned that any “optimizing” would not lead to an end to quarantining and lockdowns.
“The authorities have stressed that optimizing and adjusting the measures does not mean loosening prevention and control, nor is it a lifting of [Chinese coronavirus] restrictions or ‘lying flat’ in fighting the virus,” the Global Times asserted, adding that “the optimized policies were welcomed by many netizens,” but not offering any evidence to back up that claim.
The People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Chinese Communist Party, boasted on Tuesday that the lockdown policies that prompted the protests were “scientific and effective” – a claim the World Health Organization (W.H.O.) has contested – and the regime would not abandon them.
The Japanese outlet Kyodo News also observed that China’s Ambassador to the United Nations Zhang Jun made public remarks this week defending the lockdowns by claiming that the only alternative to them is death.
“You might say you prefer more liberty, more freedom, but then you have to be prepared to die,” Zhang reportedly told the Qatari outlet Al Jazeera.
Also weighing in publicly on Tuesday was Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying, one of the few people in China legally allowed to use the American social media platform Twitter. Hua did not directly address the protests, instead insulting the United States to defend China’s lockdown policy.
“What we want is to protect our people’s lives and ensure them a better life,” Hua said, in a statement that most Chinese citizens could not legally read give the platform it was posted on.
The price of “freedom” in the US: 1 million Covid deaths + 40,000 gun deaths per year + 107,622 Fentanyl deaths in 2021 alone. The American people deserve something far better than that. What we want is to protect our people’s lives and ensure them a better life.
— Hua Chunying 华春莹 (@SpokespersonCHN) November 29, 2022
The vocal defense of the Communist Party’s brutal policies erupted simultaneously with police operations to track down and silence known protesters, multiple reports have confirmed. Police are reportedly targeting university students in particular and officials are reportedly attempting to shut down universities to disperse concentrated groups of young people living on campus.
The news agency Reuters reported on Tuesday that it had compiled evidence of police persecuting individuals believed to have been present at protests, ordering them to appear at police stations or otherwise disappearing them into custody.
“In one case, a caller identifying as a police officer in the Chinese capital asked the protester to show up at a police station on Tuesday to deliver a written record of their activities on Sunday night,” Reuters narrated. “In another, a student was contacted by their college and asked if they had been in the area where events took place and to provide a written account.”
“There are just too many police. Police came to check the ID of one of my friends and then took her away. We don’t know why. A few hours later they released her,” one anonymous alleged protester in the nation’s capital told the outlet.
Multiple reports have accused police of seizing the phones of random passersby in Shanghai and checking them for images or videos of protests, deleting anything that may be used to share the reality of China with the world.
#CCP Police randomly checking people’s cellphone on the street in #Shanghai, as a way to crackdown on the #ChinaUprising #ChinaProtest2022 #A4Revolution #BlankPapersRevolution #chinaprotest pic.twitter.com/WgjiD8qYx2
— Jennifer Zeng 曾錚 (@jenniferzeng97) November 29, 2022
Communist Party authorities have also reportedly deployed large numbers of police officers to key plazas and other public spaces that could potentially be used to gather in an attempt to scare protesters away. The U.K. newspaper the Guardian called it a “show of force” intended to silence dissidents.
“Dozens of police cars lined the streets around a central Beijing subway station and patrolled surrounding blocks on Monday evening, while uniformed and plain-clothed officers stood guard at station exits and stopped passersby for questioning,” the Guardian observed. “In Shanghai, authorities barricaded a street where protesters had gathered for the past two nights.”
Some independent reports online have suggested that the Chinese military is planning on a potential intervention. Independent journalist Jennifer Zeng shared a video allegedly showing military vehicles, including tanks, organizing in Xuzhou. Breitbart News could not independently verify the video.
#CCP military vehicles entering #Xuzhou city, #Jiangsu province, #CCPChina. Not sure whether this has anything to do with #ChinaProtest #ChinaUprising #BlankPapersRevolution #A4Revolution in #China.
Xu zhou is about 323 miles away from #Shanghai, where protests happened. pic.twitter.com/gowPXrN1vV
— Jennifer Zeng 曾錚 (@jenniferzeng97) November 29, 2022
Police are also reportedly attempting to convince citizens that the protests were not a result of genuine disapproval of the lockdown policies, but “foreign interference,” claiming nefarious foreign agents were organizing destabilizing activities. Radio Free Asia (RFA) documented an incident in Beijing in which a man, presumably a Chinese regime agent, approached protesters and condemned them for being “foreign anti-China forces,” prompting general outrage.
— 自由亚洲电台 (@RFA_Chinese) November 29, 2022
RFA reported on Monday that authorities were emptying universities in an attempt to disperse potential protesters. Among those institutions reportedly urging students to leave is Tsinghua University, one of China’s most prestigious academic institutions and dictator Xi Jinping’s alma mater. Reports estimate that thousands of Tsinghua students joined the protests this weekend.
“Tsinghua University … is offering free bus services for students to all major Beijing railway stations and airports so they can return to their hometowns,” RFA reported, citing the Global Times. “Similar measures are underway at the University of International Business and Economics and the Chinese Academy of Sciences to ‘help students return home,’ the paper reported.”
RFA reported, citing several sources, that the Party is forcing university leadership into “emergency meetings” to respond to the protests, addressing them as a “foreign phenomenon” but not offering any evidence that any foreign powers are involved.
“When you say foreign forces, are you talking about Marx and Engels?” one protester reportedly quipped when asked to beware of foreign forces.