It’s the biggest wave of protests in China in decades – and there’s still no end in sight. On the contrary: In many cities, more and more people took to the streets at the weekend and on Monday night to protest against the government of President Xi Jinping and his strict zero-COVID policy.
Measures include repeated lockdowns, mass testing and forced quarantine, among others. Despite the rigorous measures, the Health Commission recorded another record high in the country on Monday with around 40,000 new infections.
Many of the demonstrators held up a blank sheet of white paper to symbolize government censorship restrictions on freedom of expression. “The white paper represents everything we want to say but can’t say,” a 26-year-old told Reuters news agency on Sunday (local time) at one of the many protests along the 3rd ring road of the Chinese capital near the Liangma -river. “We want to get back to normal life. We want dignity.”
In the early hours of the morning, a large contingent of police in the capital Beijing took action against hundreds of protesters near the diplomatic district. Slogans like “lift the lockdown” and “we don’t want PCR tests, we want freedom” were shouted. There were also protest marches in other megacities such as Shanghai, Chengdu, Chongqing, Wuhan and Nanjing. Dissatisfaction is also stirring in universities. Social media were full of video recordings, which were quickly deleted by Chinese censors.
It is unclear how many people were arrested. There is a virtual blackout on news in China. The AFP news agency reports two arrests in Shanghai. A BBC reporter was arrested there and said he was mistreated by the police.
“The BBC is extremely concerned at the treatment of our journalist Ed Lawrence, who was arrested and handcuffed while covering the Shanghai protests,” said a spokesman for the British broadcaster. Lawrence was punched and kicked by police officers when he was arrested, even though he has accreditation as a journalist. He was only released hours later.
These are the largest rallies in China since the 1989 democracy movement, which was bloodily crushed by the military on June 4 of that year. Public protests are rare in China. Under President Xi Jinping, dissent was almost completely banned.
Citizens therefore mostly use social media to vent their anger. Many internet users showed solidarity with the actions at the universities by posting white squares or photos of themselves with blank sheets on WeChat or Weibo. The hashtag “white paper exercise” has been blocked on Weibo since Sunday morning.
The trigger for the rare public displeasure this time was an apartment fire in the metropolis of Ürümqi in the north-western Chinese region of Xinjiang on Thursday evening, killing at least ten people. Many people criticized that the extinguishing and rescue work had been hampered by the strict corona measures.
Deputy FDP parliamentary group leader Alexander Graf Lambsdorff told the German Press Agency: “I have long believed that the Chinese Communist Party’s zero-Covid policy is doomed to failure. The pressure in the population is increasing like in a steam boiler and is now breaking through for the first time.” The combination of corona protests with demands for freedom and democracy in higher education has “a new quality”.
In the Politburo and Central Committee of the Chinese Communist Party, this could only be seen as a threat to their own claim to total power, said Lambsdorff. “One must therefore fear a very harsh reaction from the regime. The protests are still in their infancy. It would be naïve to think that they could already lead to fundamental changes at this stage.”
The protests in China against the strict corona restrictions increased investors’ concerns at the start of the week about how the virus would be dealt with in the world’s second largest economy. Observers fear that the country’s corona policy and the resulting protests could cause greater economic damage to China than expected.
“The market doesn’t like uncertainties that are difficult to assess, and the protests in China clearly fall into that category. That means investors are becoming more risk-averse,” said Gary Ng, economist at Natixis in Hong Kong. “China-linked markets across Asia, such as Australia, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Korea, are likely to feel a greater impact.”
The Nikkei index, which comprises 225 values, was 0.5 percent lower at 28,152 points. The broader Topix index fell 0.7 percent to 2,003 points. The Shanghai Stock Exchange was down 1 percent. The index of the most important companies in Shanghai and Shenzhen lost 1.6 percent.
Jens Spahn, former health minister, bought a luxury villa in Berlin with his husband. According to “Spiegel” research, there are ambiguities about the financing. It’s about an inheritance and money in Austria.
Corona is no longer the only concern in Germany’s health sector: infections with the so-called RS virus are increasing rapidly. Children are particularly affected. “The situation is catastrophic,” say experts.
Because of the increased rental costs, many federal states want to grant their civil servants high back payments from tax funds. Depending on where they live, officials with two children could be paid a five-digit amount. It doesn’t matter whether the officials live in rented accommodation or in their own home.
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The original of this article “Anti-COVID protests in China are spreading” comes from Deutsche Welle.