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"We're going to watch this closely..." US on protests in China against zero-covid

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Washington | November 29, 2022 7:29:59 AM IST
The United States on Monday said that the White House continues to stand up and support the right of peaceful protesters in China and added that Washington is monitoring the situation "closely".

In the country's biggest cities, from the financial hub of Shanghai to the capital Beijing, residents gathered over the weekend to mourn the dead from a fire in Xinjiang, speak out against zero-Covid and call for freedom and democracy.

Hundreds of demonstrators and police clashed in Shanghai as protests over China's severe COVID-19 restrictions continued into the third day and spread to several other cities.

"We continue to stand up and support the right of peaceful protest. And I think we're going to watch this closely, and we'll see where things go," the National Security Council Coordinator for Strategic Communications John Kirby said during the press briefing.

On being asked about the US President's message to Chinese citizens peacefully opposing COVID lockdowns, Kirby responded that people should have the freedom to assemble and peacefully oppose any policies, laws, or orders they disagree with.

The White House supports the right of peaceful protest, Kirby added as he reiterated US' support to people in China amid the ongoing protests.

Earlier in November, the US president met his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping during the G20 Summit in Bali.

Responding to media query about the meeting, Kirby said, "They did talk about COVID and the effect that the pandemic had had around the world. Clearly, that came up inside the conversation. I don't know if, specifically, the zero-COVID policy was an issue of discussion, but certainly COVID was on the agenda, as you might expect that it would be."

Angry crowds took to the streets of Shanghai in the early hours of Sunday morning, with protesters calling for an end to lockdowns, as China grapples with mounting public unrest against its zero-Covid policy, reported Al Jazeera.

The latest demonstrations have been unprecedented in mainland China since President Xi Jinping took power a decade ago.

Hundreds of protesters have even demanded the ouster of Chinese President Xi Jinping, who for almost three years has presided over a strategy of mass testing, brute-force lockdowns, mandatory quarantines, and digital tracking that has had a terrible human and financial cost.

Since this weekend's protests, censorship has gone into overdrive on Chinese social media platforms, to stop people from seeing and discussing them. Tens of millions of posts have been filtered from search results, while media are muting their coverage of Covid-19 in favour of upbeat stories about the World Cup and China's space achievements.

The blank sheet of paper has since come to represent infrequent protests. The 2020 protests in Hong Kong, where residents waved blank pieces of paper in opposition to the city's strict new national security laws, are thought to be the inspiration for the current fashion.

After authorities banned phrases and slogans connected to the 2019 wave of widespread protests that caused the city to come to a standstill and saw authorities violently suppress protesters, activists hoisted the paper in the air. (ANI)

 
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