COVID protests escalate in Guangzhou as China lockdown anger boils

As the protest over stringent COVID-19 lockdowns escalated over the weekend, people clashed with riot police wearing hazmat suits in the manufacturing hub of Guangzhou on Tuesday night.

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Mainland China is experiencing its biggest civil disobedience movement since 1989's Tiananmen protests, as its economy sputters after unprecedented growth.

The prosperous time was a key part of the agreement between the Communist Party and the people, whose freedoms have been severely limited since President Xi Jinping took power.

A video posted on Twitter shows dozens of police officers in all-white pandemic gear moving in formation over torn-down lockdown barriers. Police were later seen escorting a row of people in handcuffs to an unknown location.

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An additional video clip showed people throwing objects at police, and people running away from fumes after a tear gas canister hit a small crowd on a narrow street.

The videos were later verified to have been filmed in Guangzhou's Haizhu district, the scene of COVID-related unrest two weeks ago. Social media posts said the clashes took place on Tuesday night and were caused by a dispute over lockdown curbs.

China Dissent Monitor, run by U.S. government-funded Freedom House, estimated at least 27 demonstrations took place across China from Saturday to Monday. Australia's ASPI think tank estimated 43 protests in 22 cities.

Located north of Hong Kong, Guangzhou is a sprawling port city and home to many migrant factory workers. On Tuesday, officials announced they would allow close relatives of COVID patients to quarantine at home instead of forcing them to go into shelters, a decision that broke with the usual practice under China's zero-COVID policy.

Officials in Zhengzhou, a city where Foxconn makes Apple iPhones and has been the scene of worker unrest over COVID, have announced that restaurants, supermarkets, and gyms will resume operations in an “orderly” manner. However, they also published a long list of buildings that would remain under lockdown.

Earlier in the day, national health officials announced that China would respond to “urgent concerns” raised by the public and that COVID rules should be amended to fit the needs of each region.

But while the easing of some measures appears to be an attempt to appease the public, authorities have also begun to seek out those who have been at recent protests.