China’s Foreign Ministry on Monday reiterated that the country has been “making adjustments” to its COVID protocols “based on realities,” despite the public anger across the country over its stringent “zero-COVID” policy.
Demonstrators poured into the streets over the weekend in numerous cities including Shanghai and Beijing, chanting slogans and confronting police.
A number of university campuses also experienced protests.
Such widespread demonstrations are unprecedented since the 1989 student-led pro-democracy movement centered on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square that was crushed with deadly force by the army.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian denied there was frustration at the country’s COVID protocol at a daily news briefing, insisting that “with the leadership of the CPC and the cooperation and support of all Chinese people, our fight against COVID-19 will be successful.”
Most people in the weekend protests focused their anger on rigid pandemic lockdowns, a form of virtual house arrest that can last for months and has been criticized as neither scientific nor effective.
Police in Shanghai beat, kicked and handcuffed a BBC journalist who was filming the protests.
Authorities said they arrested him for his own good “in case he caught COVID from the crowd,” the BBC said in a statement. “We do not consider this a credible explanation,” it said.
At the briefing, Zhao also pushed back against this statement, saying “the journalist did not identify himself as a journalist and didn’t voluntarily present his press credentials.”
“Local law enforcement officials were persuading people at the scene to leave. Those who refused to cooperate were then ushered away,” he said.
He reiterated his country’s commitment to facilitating foreign media coverage in China and once again called on foreign journalists to “consciously follow Chinese laws and regulations.”
The possibility of further protests is unclear, and government censors have been scrubbing the internet of videos and messages supporting the demonstrations.
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