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China’s Guangzhou city eases COVID containment measures after protests | Coronavirus pandemic news


Authorities in the Chinese city of Guangzhou have eased COVID restrictions a day after protesters in the southern city clashed with police amid the chain of demonstrations against Beijing’s strict measures to control the coronavirus pandemic.

China has imposed widespread lockdowns and travel restrictions, and conducted mass testing as part of a “no COVID” policy that is causing growing outrage. COVID restrictions have been relaxed in most parts of the world.

The protests, which spread over the weekend to Shanghai, Beijing and elsewhere, have become an unprecedented display of public defiance since President Xi Jinping came to power in 2012.

The southwestern city of Chongqing will allow close contacts of people with COVID-19 who meet certain conditions to be isolated at home, a city official said Wednesday.

But with a record number of infections nationwide, there seems to be little prospect of a major turning point in the “COVID-free” policy that President Xi has said has saved many lives.

Al Jazeera’s Patrick Fok, reporting from Hong Kong, says that the protests have turned violent in Guangzhou, which has been hit hard by the recent wave of infections.

“The unrest marks an escalation of a movement that has spread to several major cities,” Fok said.

“The latest developments come despite stark warnings about participating in protests,” he said, adding that China’s top security agency had called for a crackdown on what it called are “enemy forces”.

However, it is unclear who or what the government is referring to, Fok said, and has yet to provide evidence of any outside interference.

Some protesters and foreign security experts believe Wednesday The death of former President Jiang Zeminwho led the country during a decade of rapid economic growth following the 1989 Tiananmen crackdown, could become the new rallying point for protests three years after the pandemic.

Jiang’s legacy is being debated on the protesters’ Telegram groups, with some saying it gives them a good reason to gather.

‘Sign of weakness’

The China Dissent Monitor, run by the US government-funded Freedom House, estimated at least 27 protests took place across China from Saturday to Monday. Australia’s ASPI think tank estimated there were 43 protests in 22 cities.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Wednesday that people in every country should be able to “express their disappointment” through peaceful protests.

“In any country where we see that happen and then we see the government take massive repressive action to stop it, that’s not a sign of strength, it’s a sign of weakness,” Blinken said.

Along with the easing of restrictive measures in Guangzhou and Chongqing, officials in Zhengzhou, home to a large Foxconn factory that produces Apple’s iPhones, which was once a place where workers are unsettled because of COVID, announced announced the resumption of “orderly” business, including supermarkets, gyms and restaurants.

Earlier, national health officials said China would respond to “urgent concerns” raised by the public and that COVID rules should be made more flexible.

COVID has spread despite China largely isolating itself from the world and requiring hundreds of millions of sacrifices to comply with relentless testing and isolation.

Although the number of infections and deaths is low by global standards, analysts say reopening before increasing vaccination rates could lead to widespread illness and death.

The lockdown has hammered the economy, disrupted global supply chains and rattled financial markets.

Data on Wednesday showed China’s manufacturing and services activity in November hit its lowest level since Shanghai’s two-month lockdown began in April.

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