Chinese Authorities Searching for Demonstrators


Police form a cordon during a protest in Beijing on November 27, 2022 | Image by Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

Weekend protests in Beijing against China’s “zero-COVID” policy have resulted in authorities making inquiries into some of the people who were in attendance.

On Monday, China blamed “forces with ulterior motives” for connecting a fire in the western Xinjiang region to stringent COVID-19 regulations, a significant cause of recent nationwide protests.

“On social media, there are forces with ulterior motives that relate this fire with the local response to Covid-19,” said Chinese ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian, Le Mond reported. A fire in the city of Urumqi last week, which according to authorities, claimed 10 lives, served as the catalyst for the protests, according to Reuters.

The strict testing and lockdown protocol has been seen by some as inciting anger among students and dissidents and has put the country’s authoritarian leaders in a difficult position.

Residents say that law enforcement has been asking residents for their phones to check if they have virtual private networks (VPNs) and the Telegram app, which protesters have been using. Most people in China are not allowed to use VPNs, and the Telegram app is not allowed to be used in China, according to Reuters.

In Shanghai and Beijing, police were watching places where groups on the messaging service Telegram had said people should meet up again. Monday night, there were no gatherings because the police were there.

“It’s really scary.” Beijing resident Philip Qin, 22, told Reuters.

Two protesters said people who called them said they were Beijing police officers who told them to bring a written account of what they did on Sunday night to a police station on Tuesday. A student also said his college had asked him to provide a written report if he had been in an area where a protest occurred.

It was not clear how the authorities knew who to interview about participation in the protests, and it also was not clear how many people they wanted to interview.

China has seen the biggest wave of civil disobedience since President Xi Jinping took office 10 years ago. The protests are happening while large parts of several cities are being locked down, and the number of COVID cases has reached record daily highs, according to Reuters.

“If they do that to their own people, what will they do to you?” Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) said. “I think these things are going to continue, and the reaction of the Chinese government should be a wake-up call to the world.”

Chinese officials from the education ministry are said to have told colleges and universities to send students home while they try to calm things down, reported the Washington Examiner.

“If the Chinese government announces the end of zero-COVID just because of popular protest, then it will give the impression that democratic protests are effective in influencing its decision-making,” said Si Ling, a political commentator in Beijing. “That will spark further protests from the public … so they can’t afford to give any breathing room to street protests and demonstrations whatsoever.”

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2 months ago

I will pray for chinese people not to give up their freedom, not be afraid.