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China’s crackdown on protests a sign of weakness: US foreign policy chief


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The head of US diplomacy, Antony Blinken, said on Wednesday (30) that China’s crackdown on protests against the zero Covid policy is a sign of weakness of the communist regime.

In an interview with NBC News, the US Secretary of State was asked about the Chinese response to the demonstrations and whether it somehow increases US influence and weakens Xi Jinping. Blinken, however, avoided commenting on the effects of the protests on the Chinese leader, limiting himself to criticizing both the repression and Covid zero itself.

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“Any country where you see people trying to speak out, peacefully protest, make their frustrations known, whatever the problem, in any country where we see this happening and then we see the government take repressive measures to stop it, that’s not a sign of strength, It’s a sign of weakness,” he said.

“The policy we see in China is not something we would do. China needs to figure out a way to deal with Covid, a way that meets health needs but also the needs of the people,” added Blinken. “We can’t solve this for them.”

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Covid zero, with tough restrictions on freedom and circulation, is the main strategy to contain the effects of the pandemic – despite the economic impact and criticism from entities such as the WHO, whose director general classified the measures as unsustainable.

Since last Friday, Chinese have been protesting the restrictions. The trigger was a fire the day before that killed ten people in isolation in Urumqi, in western China. In the days that followed, the wave of protests grew, becoming the largest in the country in recent decades and reaching abroad.

A combination of police repression, roadblocks, internet censorship and intimidation via inquiries, the acts in megacities such as Beijing and Shanghai were, in practice, silenced, but they occurred again in other regions.

In Guangzhou, in southern China, the authorities even loosened restrictions against Covid on Tuesday (29), but districts still under tight control were the scene of new protests and clashes between demonstrators and police.

Videos posted on social media show dozens of agents dressed in protective suits and equipped with shields, like riot police. They advance towards a group of protesters over what appear to be barricades and are hit by unidentified objects.

The recordings also show police officers escorting a line of handcuffed people, groups throwing more objects at the agents and even dozens of people dispersing after the release of a tear gas bomb.

The location of the videos was confirmed by the Reuters news agency – it is the Haizhu district, in Guangzhou –, but the exact sequence of events as well as what triggered the clashes are not clear. Officials, as on other similar occasions, have not commented on the incidents.

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