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China Focuses on Vaccination After Discontent Over ‘Zero Covid’ Policy

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China Focuses on Vaccination After Discontent Over ‘Zero Covid’ Policy

THE China decided today (29/11) to accelerate the vaccination of the elderly against her Covid-19two days after unprecedented protests against health restrictions and in favor of more freedoms, with a police presence on the streets currently preventing any new gatherings.

China’s ambassador to the UK, Zheng Zeguang, has been summoned to the British Foreign Office following the arrest on Sunday of a BBC journalist covering the protests in Shanghai, minister James Cleverley said.

In Beijing, the national health commission, which functions as a ministry, pledged to “accelerate the increase in the vaccination rate of the elderly over 80 and continue to increase the vaccination rate of those aged 60 to 79.”

Only 65.8% of residents over the age of 80 have been fully vaccinated, officials of this committee announced during a press conference, while Beijing has not yet approved RNA vaccines, which are considered more effective.

China’s low vaccination rate, especially among the elderly, is one of the arguments put forward by the government to justify its strict health policy of repeated house arrests, quarantine on arrival from abroad and near-daily tests for the population.

Tackling this problem could offer China a way out of its ‘zero Covid policy’.

In place for nearly three years, the policy was the target of weekend protests in several cities – the largest protest movement since the pro-democracy protests that were suppressed in 1989.

It was also against the backdrop of deep frustrations with the political system, as demonstrated by the chants the crowd chanted, some of which called for the resignation of President Xi Jinping and the removal of the Chinese Communist Party from power.

The trigger was a deadly fire last week in Urumqi, capital of northwest China’s Xinjiang region. Health restrictions have been blamed for hampering the work of rescue teams, arguments the government rejected on Monday.

“Too strict”

After a turbulent weekend, the deployment of a significant police force in the country’s major cities appeared to have deterred protesters today, according to AFP reporters in Beijing and Shanghai.

In Beijing, AFP reporters saw a few police vehicles but no protesters at the site near the Asian Games Village where a demonstration was planned. The freezing temperatures of -9°C no doubt helped discourage any further protest gatherings.

Demonstrators who took part in weekend demonstrations in the Chinese capital said on Monday they had received phone calls from police informing them of their movements.

By Tuesday night, the hundreds of police officers deployed in Shanghai appeared to have withdrawn from the streets, according to an AFP reporter.

Disappointment with the zero case policy remains visible. “This policy is very strict indeed”said a 17-year-old bystander who did not want to be named. “This policy is killing more people than Covid-19”.

Some, however, managed to gather on Tuesday night, specifically in Hong Kong – rocked in 2019 by pro-democracy protests – where dozens of people paid tribute, at the Chinese University, to the victims of the Urumqi fire, according to AFP.

In the neighboring mainland Chinese city of Shenzhen, witnesses told AFP they saw a heavy police presence in the center following rumors on social media of calls for protests, with 150 police officers and dozens of police vans in the Huaxiangbei district.

“The pretext of Covid”

Tight authorities’ control over information and health restrictions on domestic travel complicate verification of the total number of protesters over the weekend.

But such a widespread uprising is extremely rare in China, given the crackdown on any form of opposition to the government. This uprising attracted the attention of the international community. US President Joe Biden stated that “keeps abreast of what’s going on”.

In the United States, the Chinese and Uyghur (Xinjiang) communities held vigils to pay tribute to the victims of the excesses of the zero-case Covid policy. “Authorities are using the pretext of Covid, but also strict restrictions to control the Chinese population”a 21-year-old Chinese woman who gave only her surname, Chen, told AFP.

Although Beijing currently maintains its strict policy against Covid-19, some signs of relaxation have been seen in recent days.

In Urumqi on Tuesday, residents could travel by bus again to do their shopping after weeks of lockdown in this city of four million people.

Beijing city banned “the practice of locking doors in housing estates”according to the Xinhua news agency, a process that sparked popular outrage.

An influential state media commentator has hinted that controls may soon be relaxed following the protests. “China could emerge from the shadow of Covid-19 sooner than expected”Hu Xijin, a columnist and former editor-in-chief of the nationalist tabloid Global Times, said via Twitter, which is banned in China.

Source: News Beast

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