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Authorities Warn of ‘Crackdown’ in Southern China as Covd-19 Protests Escalate



Authorities Warn of ‘Crackdown’ in Southern China

Fresh clashes have erupted between police and protesters in Guangzhou in southern China as part of a nationwide wave of Covid lockdown sparked demonstrations that have morphed into demands for political freedoms.

China’s top security body warned late Tuesday night that authorities would “crackdown” on the protests, which are the most widespread since deadly pro-democracy rallies in 1989.

Over the weekend, protests erupted across major cities, including Beijing and Shanghai, with China’s vast security apparatus moving quickly to quell any further unrest.

However, according to witnesses and social media footage verified by Reuters, new clashes erupted on Tuesday night and into Wednesday in China’s southern city of Guangzhou.

Videos posted on social media showed security personnel in hazmat suits forming ranks shoulder-to-shoulder and taking cover behind see-through riot shields as they made their way down a street in the southern city’s Haizhu district as glass smashed around them.

People could be heard screaming and shouting in the footage, which showed orange and blue barricades strewn across the ground.

People are seen throwing objects at the cops, and nearly a dozen men are later filmed being led away with their hands bound with cable ties.

The protests were sparked by anger over China’s zero-Covid policies, which have resulted in massive population lockdowns and have strangled the economy.

The outrage was sparked by a deadly fire last week in Urumqi, the capital of the northwestern region of Xinjiang, with people blaming Covid curbs for trapping victims inside the burning building.

However, demonstrators in communist China have also called for far-reaching political reforms, with some even calling for President Xi Jinping to step down.

China’s top security body called for a “crackdown” on “hostile forces,” signaling its zero-tolerance approach to the protests.

At its meeting, the body, which oversees all domestic law enforcement in China, also agreed that it was time to “crackdown on illegal criminal acts that disrupt social order” and “protect overall social stability.”

The warning came after a heavy police presence in Beijing, and Shanghai appeared to have quenched protests in those cities on Tuesday.

Rallies took place in Shanghai, China on Monday and Tuesday.

Over a dozen people led the crowd in chanting slogans such as “give me liberty or give me death” at Hong Kong’s oldest university on Tuesday.

“We are Chinese citizens, not foreign forces.” “China should have different voices,” one woman yelled, holding a placard commemorating the victims of the Urumqi fire.

On Monday night, there was heavy security and sporadic protests in Hangzhou’s downtown, about 170 kilometers (105 miles) southwest of Shanghai.

Because of China’s strict control over information and ongoing travel restrictions, verifying protester numbers across the vast country has proven difficult.

However, the widespread rallies seen over the weekend are extremely unusual in China.

The 1989 pro-democracy protests in Beijing ended in bloodshed when the military stormed Tiananmen Square.

Global attention has been drawn to the latest unrest, with solidarity protests from Melbourne to Washington.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken stated on Tuesday that Washington’s position is “the same everywhere” and “supports the right of people everywhere to peacefully protest and express their views, concerns, and frustrations.”

While China’s leaders are committed to zero-Covid, there are some indications that the central government is looking for a way out of the strict policy.

China’s National Health Commission (NHC) announced a renewed effort to increase low vaccination rates among the elderly, which has long been regarded as a major impediment to relaxing the measures.

Many fear that opening up the country while large swaths of the population are still immunized will overwhelm China’s healthcare system and result in more than a million deaths.

China recorded 37,612 domestic cases on Wednesday, down from record highs over the weekend and a drop compared to caseloads in the West during the pandemic’s peak.

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