Chinese authorities are looking for COVID protesters

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BEIJING – Chinese authorities have opened investigations into some of the people who gathered during weekend protests against COVID-19 curbs, people at the Beijing protests told Reuters, as police remained on standby. number in the streets of the city.

Two protesters told Reuters that callers identifying themselves as Beijing police officers asked them to report to a police station on Tuesday with written accounts of their activities on Sunday evening. A student also said he was asked by his college if he had been to an area where a protest had taken place and to provide a written account.

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“We are all desperately deleting our chat history,” said another person who witnessed the Beijing protest and declined to be identified. The person said police asked how they heard about the protest and what their motive was.

It was unclear how authorities identified the people they wanted to question about their participation in the protests, or how many of those people the authorities aimed to interview.

The Beijing Public Security Bureau did not respond to a request for comment. A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson said rights and freedoms should be exercised within the law.

Simmering dissatisfaction with strict COVID prevention policies three years into the pandemic sparked protests in towns thousands of miles apart over the weekend.

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The biggest wave of civil disobedience in mainland China since President Xi Jinping took power a decade ago comes as the number of COVID cases hit daily highs and large parts of several cities face further closures.

A health official said complaints about COVID controls have mostly been about their inflexible implementation.

« The issues highlighted by the public are not aimed at epidemic prevention and control themselves, but focus on simplifying prevention and control measures, » Cheng Youquan told reporters, adding that the authorities would respond to urgent concerns.

COVID has spread despite China largely isolating itself from the world and demanding significant sacrifices from its people to comply with frequent testing and prolonged isolation.

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The lockdowns have exacerbated one of the sharpest growth slowdowns China has suffered in decades, disrupting global supply chains and disrupting financial markets.

Chinese stocks and the yuan rallied as investors bet signs of civil unrest could lead to an easing of restrictions and encouraged looser fundraising regulations for developers.

China’s blue-chip CSI300 index rose 3% for its best session in three weeks, Shanghai’s composite index gained 2.3% to hit a two-month high and Hong Kong’s Hang Seng jumped 5%.

Plans to increase vaccination rates for the elderly also helped boost market sentiment.


In Hangzhou, the capital of eastern Zhejiang province, social media videos that Reuters could not independently verify showed hundreds of police occupying a large square on Monday evening, preventing people from gathering.

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Video showed officers, surrounded by a small crowd of people holding smartphones, making an arrest while others tried to push the detained person back.

Hangzhou police did not immediately comment.

In Shanghai and Beijing, police were patrolling areas where some groups on the messaging service Telegram had suggested people gather again. The police presence on Monday evening ensured that no gathering was taking place.

« It’s really scary, » said 22-year-old Beijing resident Philip Qin, referring to the large number of police on the streets.

Residents said police asked people crossing these areas for their phones to check if they had virtual private networks (VPNs) and the Telegram app, which was used by protesters, residents said. VPNs are illegal for most people in China, while Telegram app is blocked from internet in China.

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Some protesters had used dating apps to evade censorship and police scrutiny.

The spark for the protests was a fire last week in the western city of Urumqi that authorities say killed 10 people.

Some netizens said the COVID lockdown measures hampered efforts to rescue people from the burning building. Officials denied this.


Prominent nationalist bloggers, such as Ren Yi, the grandson of Communist Party leader Ren Zhongyi, and Yu Li, who uses the pseudonym Sima Nan, wrote that the protests were instigated by « foreign forces ».

» What’s their point ? On the one hand, it is about intensifying internal conflicts. On the other hand, it is to see if they can completely politicize the issues around our epidemic prevention and health policies,” Ren wrote in his blog.

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Authorities regularly warn that “foreign forces” endanger national security and have accused them of stoking the 2019 democracy protests in Hong Kong.

Officials say the COVID policy has kept the death toll in the thousands, avoiding the millions of deaths elsewhere. Many analysts say easing policy before increasing vaccination rates could lead to widespread illness and death, overwhelming hospitals.

In an editorial that does not mention the protests, the People’s Daily, the Party’s official newspaper, urged citizens to « relentlessly implement » COVID policies.

“The more difficult it is, the more you have to grit your teeth,” he said.

(Reporting by Eduardo Baptista, Martin Quin Pollard, Yew Lun Tian and Albee Zhang in Beijing and Casey Hall in Shanghai; Writing by Marius Zaharia; Editing by Michael Perry and Robert Birsel)



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