China tries to contain protests; there was a clash in Guangzhou

People in the Chinese city of Guangzhou clashed with riot police late on Tuesday as authorities investigated more people who had taken part in a series of protests against the world’s toughest Covid-19 restrictions.

The demonstrations, which escalated over the weekend as they spread to Shanghai, Beijing and elsewhere, are one of the biggest acts of public defiance since President Xi Jinping came to power in 2012.

The southern city of Guangzhou became the latest to announce an easing of restrictions on Wednesday, but with a record number of cases across the country there seems little prospect of a major reversal of a policy that Xi said he was saving lives and proclaimed it one of his political achievements.

When announcing the lifting of lockdowns in parts of Guangzhou, authorities made no mention of the protests, and the district where Tuesday’s violence took place remained under strict control.

In a video of these clashes posted on Twitter, dozens of riot police dressed in white protective clothing and holding shields over their heads charged over what appeared to be collapsed lockdown barriers as objects flew at them.

Later, police were seen escorting a line of handcuffed people.

Another video showed people throwing objects at police, and a third showed a tear gas canister falling into a small crowd in a narrow street, causing people to flee to escape the smoke.

Reuters verified that the videos were filmed in Guangzhou’s Haizhu district, the scene of Covid-related unrest two weeks ago, but was unable to determine when the footage was taken or the exact sequence of events and what triggered the clashes.

Posts on social media said the clashes took place on Tuesday night and were caused by a dispute over lockdown restrictions.

The Guangzhou government did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The China Dissent Monitor, run by US government-funded Freedom House, estimated that at least 27 demonstrations took place across China from Saturday to Monday. The Australian think tank ASPI estimated 43 protests in 22 cities.

In addition to easing restrictions in the city of Guangzhou, in Zhengzhou, the site of a large Foxconn factory that makes iPhones and which has seen workers unrest over Covid, authorities announced the “orderly” resumption of businesses, including supermarkets. , gyms and restaurants.

However, they also published a long list of buildings that would remain closed.

Hours before those announcements, national health officials said China would respond to “urgent concerns” raised by the public and that Covid rules should be implemented more flexibly in line with conditions in the region.

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