China zero-Covid: Guangzhou residents revolt against oppressive lockdowns


Hong-Kong
CNN

Residents under Covid lockdown in Guangzhou, China’s southern manufacturing center, have torn down barriers designed to keep them attached to their homes and took to the streets in defiance of strictly enforced local orders, according to video and images posted on social media. circulate media.

Some images show large crowds cheering and pouring over toppled barriers, filling the streets after dark in the city’s Haizhu district, which has been under increasing lockdown since Nov. 5 as the epicenter of the ongoing Covid outbreak in the city.

The clanging sound of falling metal barriers reverberates through the neighborhood and mixes with cheers in the footage, in scenes that multiple social media users say took place on the streets of the neighborhood late Monday night.

In one video, Covid workers in protective medical gear can be seen sitting on the sidelines as the barriers fall, trying to talk to people on the street. “They are revolting,” a female voice can be heard saying in the background of one of the videos. CNN geolocated the footage to Haizhu district but was unable to independently confirm it.

It is not clear how many people were involved in the protest and how long it lasted. Related posts were quickly expunged from China’s internet censorship.

When CNN reached the phone line of the Haizhu District Government Office, an operator said the area was still “largely sealed off.”

When asked if there have been any protests in recent days, the operator declined to answer.

The public outcry — an exceedingly rare occurrence in China, where authorities tightly control dissent — appears to be yet another sign of growing public anger and desperation over the government’s strict zero-Covid policy.

The scenes in Guangzhou, which reported more than 5,100 new cases of Covid on Tuesday – the vast majority asymptomatic – stem from Beijing’s relentless push to contain the spread of the virus amid rapidly spreading new variants.

Residents on the streets of Guangzhou appeared to be defying Covid restrictions.

China is experiencing a flurry of infections across the country, this time fueled by simultaneous outbreaks in multiple cities, where containment measures are pushing residents and local authorities to their limits.

On Tuesday, China’s National Health Commission reported more than 17,772 new cases of Covid nationwide, the highest number since April 2021, with Guangzhou, a city of 19 million, accounting for more than a quarter of those.

Last week, the city placed three districts, including Haizhu, on lockdown in an effort to contain the spread, imposing a series of restrictions on residents’ movement and business activities. This was followed in recent days by additional measures for neighborhoods classified as ‘high risk’.

Zhang Yi, deputy director of Guangzhou’s municipal health commission, told a news conference Monday that “pandemic containment measures” will be “tightened” — a veiled reference for lockdowns — throughout Liwan and Panyu districts, as well as parts of Haizhu and Yuexiu districts.

Rising numbers of cases and associated controls have prompted more residents across China to question the cost of the brute force measures being used by authorities to stamp out cases, including mandatory quarantine of close contacts of Covid patients, mass testing and lockdowns that can see people cooped up in their neighborhoods, neighborhoods or apartments – sometimes for months.

Top officials in Beijing, including Chinese leader Xi Jinping, have pledged that the measures must be balanced with economic and social interests. Authorities revised the policy last week, including discouraging unnecessary mass testing and an overly zealous classification of low-risk areas.

They also largely removed the quarantine of secondary close contacts and reduced the time close contacts must spend in central quarantine — all the changes officials are pushing are not a relaxation but a refinement of the policy.

Those measures came as Xi prepared for a week of diplomacy attending summits in Southeast Asia, a signal that China was ready to return to the global stage, with Xi this month taking the lead for the first time since the pandemic began. most important western leaders in person.

But for the citizens at home trapped in lockdown, recurring problems, such as accessing prompt medical care or adequate food and supplies, or losing work and income, have again and again led to hardship and tragedy, including countless deaths believed to be they are related to delayed access to medical care.

Guangzhou’s Haizhu district, where footage showed overnight protests, is home to a number of migrant workers who live in tightly packed buildings in areas known as “urban villages.”

Their conditions may exacerbate the hardships of the suppressive measures, as the actual number of residents requiring supplies in a given housing block may be unclear to goods-delivery officials. There is also no option to work remotely to maintain income for those who work in factories and construction sites.

In posts shared on social media, observers noted that they heard residents of Haizhu, originally from outside Guangzhou, begging for help from officials, such as compensation for rent and free supplies.

In a video circulating on social media, a man can be heard shouting, “We Hubei people want to eat! We Hubei people want to be unsealed! referring to another province in China, where many of the district’s migrant workers come from. He is part of a crowd that has gathered in front of a Covid worker in safety suits.

In a separate clip of the same scene, another man asks the workers, “If your parents got sick, how would you feel? If your children have a fever and cannot leave (to the hospital), how would you feel?”

In another video, people can be heard shouting out their frustrations and desperation at a man who identifies himself as the neighborhood warden and says he wants to address their concerns. A resident rushes forward to say that as non-local residents they have to queue for hours for Covid-19 testing and that the meat sold to them by the government has spoiled, while not calling the local helplines can reach.

“No one came to explain and the council line is always busy. And our landlord doesn’t care if we live or die. What should we do?” says the resident, as the other members of the crowd begin to shout together, “Unseal! Unseal!”

At the city’s press conference on Monday, a Haizhu district official acknowledged criticism that restrictions could have been announced earlier and with more clarity on areas affected by the measures.

“We have also recognized many of our shortcomings,” said Su Mingqing, deputy chief of Haizhu district.

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