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Unprecedented protests sweep through China as government imposes fresh lockdowns

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While China has seen farm and labour protests in the past, this time it is unique because people across communities are uniting against COVID-19 restrictions

As China’s “zero-COVID” policy enters its third year, millions across the country have lost patience.

On November 23, 2022, the National Health Mission reported 31,444 locally transmitted cases which is the highest daily figure since COVID-19 was first detected in 2019. After China reported the first COVID death in the last six months, another series of lockdowns has been imposed across the country.

A country that has barely seen protests experienced a series of public outbursts over the past two weeks as a result of recurrent lockdowns, quarantines and mass testing.

One of the first instances was workers in Guangzhou crashing through lockdown barriers and marching on the streets. On November 24, 10 people were killed in a fire at a residential building in Urumqi and lockdowns were held responsible for hampering the escape and rescue operations.

Workers at Foxconn iPhone manufacturing in Zhengzhou also defied the strict measures and escaped from the facility. Similar outbursts have been reported in Hotan, Nanjing, Beijing, Wuhan, Chengdu and Lanzhou.

While the country has seen farm and labour protests in the past, this time it is unique because people across communities are uniting against COVID-19 restrictions.

A call for freedom has been the underlying theme of most of the protests — “No to lockdown, Yes to freedom” is the most common slogan. Some protestors have adopted the ‘A4 protest’ where they hold plain sheets of paper to avoid censorship.

The public is skeptical about the effectiveness of these lockdowns but any voice of dissent is quickly taken down from social media by the authorities.

Even though recurring protests are glaring signs of public frustration, the Chinese dictatorship has the power to crack down on them because of their unorganised nature.

On November 11, even though the government announced that it would ease some restrictions, after cases reached an all time high in Shijiazhuang a few days after easing restrictions, China held its stance on ‘COVID annihilation’ firmly in place.

Youth unemployment has reached 20 per cent and crude oil prices have slipped last week in Asia as the world’s largest importer continues COVID-19 restrictions.




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