The Chinese government has warned it will crack down on protesters for disrupting the social order, signalling it was prepared to use greater force after days of open dissent over its COVID-zero policy.
The warning, issued late on Tuesday night by the Central Committee, is the first official government response to four days of unrest across a dozen Chinese cities.
Anti-lockdown protesters in Beijing on Monday.Credit:Getty Images
“We must resolutely crack down on the infiltration and sabotage activities of hostile forces according to law, resolutely crack down on illegal and criminal acts that disrupt social order according to law, and earnestly safeguard the overall stability of society,” said Chen Wenqing, the Politburo’s secretary of the politics and legal affairs committee.
He added that the government would enhance its political judgment, political understanding and political execution.
“It is necessary to promptly ease and resolve contradictions and disputes and help solve the practical difficulties of the people,” Chen said, according to Chinese state media service Xinhua.
The details of the Central Committee meeting suggest the Chinese government is attempting to balance the ongoing concerns of workers, students and businesses straining under their third year of COVID restrictions, while wiping out threats to political stability and criticism of Chinese Communist Party rule.
On Tuesday night, pockets of dissent continued across China as local authorities and police blockaded areas of Beijing to prevent protesters from gathering.
In Shanghai, police were seen boarding a train and checking travellers’ phones for apps, including Telegram and Twitter. The apps, which are banned in China and can only be accessed through virtual private networks (VPNs), have been used by protesters to coordinate and disseminate information overseas.
Residents clashed with security and local officials in Jinan as they attempted to break through COVID-19 quarantine barricades. In Nanchang, they demanded that they be allowed out of their compounds.
In Shenzhen, a man was arrested after yelling “I want to go home”. Dozens of protesters have been detained over several days, but authorities have so far been reluctant to use mass arrests despite the civil unrest growing to its highest level since the Tiananmen Square massacre in 1989.
Police cars line up near the site of a planned protest in Beijing on Tuesday night.Credit:Bloomberg
Now in their fourth day, some protests have morphed from disputes about the government’s handling of COVID-19 to broader grievances about its controls on freedom of speech and human rights.
On Liangma Bridge in Beijing on Monday night, protesters yelled: “We don’t want lockdown, but freedom! End the Cultural Revolution 2.0!”
China’s health officials are now scrambling to get more of the elderly population vaccinated after two years of sluggish results by authorities. Poor vaccination levels have hampered the country’s ability to re-open its economy and frustrated young workers.
The population of 1.4 billion is 90 per cent vaccinated, but only 65 per cent of people aged over 80 have been inoculated in China, due to a combination of historical vaccine hesitancy and a reluctance by the Chinese government to implement mandates or restrictions on the unvaccinated. The disparity has left millions of older residents exposed to COVID-19 while younger, fully vaccinated Chinese workers bear the brunt of the economic toll.
On Tuesday, China’s National Health Commission said it would speed up vaccination programs among the elderly through a door-to-door publicity campaign. The commission said it would push older residents for a reason as to why they were not vaccinated, but it stopped short of implementing vaccine restrictions or mandates that have become common in other parts of the world.
Xia Gang, a National Health Commission official, said it was necessary “to speed up vaccination, especially the vaccination of the elderly”.
“I hope that elderly friends will actively complete the vaccination as soon as possible to protect the health of themselves and their families,” said Xia.
Get a note directly from our foreign correspondents on what’s making headlines around the world. Sign up for the weekly What in the World newsletter here.
Most Viewed in World
From our partners
Source: Read Full Article