By Rory Zeman
On Nov. 24, protesters in China’s Haizhu district started rioting for ten days in response to the strict zero-Covid lockdown restrictions the Chinese government has enforced on the people since the first lockdown on Jan. 23, 2020.
Protests began after an apartment fire in Urumqi, which firefighters had difficulty getting to largely because of the lockdowns. The fire ultimately killed ten residents. In addition, protests have reacted to the failure of the Chinese government to provide basic necessities such as shelter and food.
Even after the protests began, China continued to add to its already strict regulations. The deputy director of the Guangzhou municipal health commission, Zhang Yi, stated that the “pandemic containment measures” are going to continue to be “enhanced.”
The current lockdowns in China have allegedly had an adverse effect on Chinese citizens, often targeting migrant workers by forcing them into a crowded space with many other workers. Lockdowns have also affected factory and construction workers, who have few options for remote work and, therefore, no source of income, leaving them with few options for obtaining necessary supplies.
Not only does the protest defy the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, but it also shines light on the lack of political freedoms for Chinese citizens. The protests, which are incredibly rare in China ever since the Tiananmen Square Massacre, question the inability of the Chinese government to solve many of the country’s issues. To start, these measures have increased unemployment rates. According to NBC, one in every five youths in China do not have a job. Additionally, the Luding earthquake on Sept. 5 sparked even more protests, with many victims unable to escape the disaster because of lockdown restrictions. Citizens have also struggled to get lifesaving medical treatments because of these lockdowns.
The Chinese government has imposed these control measures after many urban surges in COVID-19 across the nation. China’s National Health Commission disclosed that the country is having its biggest surge in COVID-19 since April 2021, with more than 17,000 new cases across the country on Nov. 14. As of Dec. 7, the Chinese government loosened some of its stricter policies, giving infected citizens with mild symptoms the rights to quarantine at home. In addition, people are now allowed to do simple activities such as national travel without having to electronically update their health and testing status.
(Sources: CNN, The Guardian, NBC, WSJ)