10/28/2022, 14.44
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People protest, economy worsens: but Beijing insists on lockdowns

Demonstrations in Tibet against restrictions that have lasted almost three months. Industrial profits down; manufacturing production halted. Mass tests and shutdowns in several parts of the country, including the capital and Shanghai. At least 28 cities are under various forms of lockdown; over 207 million people affected.

Beijing (AsiaNews) - Protests are growing nationwide against the draconian Covid-19 "zeroing" policy wanted by Xi Jinping, freshly appointed to a historic third term in power after the 20th Chinese Communist Party Congress.

Images of protests in Lhasa, capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region, continue to circulate online. Hundreds of people took to the streets between yesterday and the day before yesterday to demand an end to a lockdown that has lasted almost three months. More than local Tibetans, most of them were Han immigrants (the majority in China), demanding to return to their home provinces.

Local security sources heard by Radio Free Asia claim that the situation is back under control. The demonstrations in Tibet these days are the first since the anti-government demonstrations of 2008, which were suppressed by the authorities with an iron fist.

At the beginning of the summer, it was the people of Shanghai who protested against a lockdown that was supposed to last only a few days and instead lasted for two months. Despite the disastrous handling of the affair, with part of the citizenry left without food for days, Xi managed to impose the local CCP secretary Li Qiang, his long-time collaborator, as the next premier.

Even more sensational is the lone action of a protester who displayed banners critical of Xi in Beijing on the eve of the 20th Party Congress: the most blatant challenge to the regime since the 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy movement. The police immediately arrested Peng Lifa, who became a web star with the nicknames 'bridge man', 'lone warrior' and 'brave man'.

The citizens' anger goes hand in hand with the problems caused to the national economy by Xi's 'zero-Covid' line. Investors (especially foreigners') are pessimistic about the possibility of the health restrictions being shelved any time soon. Official data released yesterday revealed that industrial profits fell at a faster pace between January and September. According to a Reuters poll, manufacturing activity in October remained flat. 

Popular protests and falling economic numbers do not change Xi's policy, however. Today, Shanghai ordered new mass swabs for 1.3 million residents of the central district of Yangpu: they will have to remain confined to their homes at least until the result of the tests. Since 26 October, 900,000 citizens of Wuhan (where the lung disease first appeared) have been in lockdown for five days. From today, the urban districts of Xining (Qinghai) are also quarantined; parts of Beijing are also closed.

Nomura calculated that as of 24 October, 28 Chinese cities are under various forms of lockdown. More than 207 million residents are affected, in provinces with a combined GDP of 25,600 billion yuan (3,544 billion euro): almost a quarter of the national gross domestic product in 2021.

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