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Growing challenge of COVID-19 curbs in China brings wave of arrests – SABC News

Sun Jian, a 37-year-old master’s student in the Chinese city of Yantai, has been conducting a solo campaign for months against his university’s COVID-19 prevention measures, including blatant criticism on social media.

The last straw for the authorities came on March 27, when Sun walked around his campus with a poster reading “lift the lockdown on Ludong”.

Police arrested him and on April 1 Ludong University expelled him, according to a letter from the university seen by Reuters.

University officials did not respond to a request for comment.

The Chinese public has largely supported the zero-COVID-19 policy that the coronavirus kept in the bay for the two years after it emerged in late 2019 in central Wuhan city and quickly over spread the world.

But support seems to be dwindling as the highly contagious Omicron variant emerges in China, provoking sidewalks that have brought food shortages, family divorces, lost wages and economic pain.

Sun’s protest reflects growing frustration and resentment, in a society that respects general authority, with a COVID-19 strategy increasingly challenged by the Omicron variant.

In some cases, the push-back has gone viral on social media, with video clips of citizens battling health workers and raging anger over lockdowns from the windows of their apartments.

Space for dissent is limited as China has become more authoritarian under President Xi Jinping, and anger over COVID-19 restrictions has created headaches for authorities who have called on the public to make sacrifices for the greater good.

Sun said his university had moved classes online and banned students from leaving campus, receiving packages or getting food supplies outside.

He dismissed the curbs as unnecessary, seeing what he said was the low star rating associated with the Omicron variant.

“The problems caused by the virus can not be compared to the disruption of some of the anti-COVID-19 measures taken by our school,” Sun told Reuters by telephone.

He said his social media accounts were blocked.

‘REFUGEES’

Arrests and detentions for COVID-related rule violations increased in March, according to the results of a search on the Weibo social media platform for police statements, reports from state agencies and reports from state media from around China.

The search found 59 confirmed police cases and 26 arrests for violating COVID-19 rules in January, and fewer in February. But in March, more than 600 police cases and 150 confirmed arrests were reported on Weibo, the Reuters review found.

It is likely that the figures represent only a fraction of actual cases, as not every incident makes it on social media or is reported by the authorities.

Public security departments also announced an increase in March in the occurrence of violations of COVID-19 rules, with cities and counties publishing 80 notices on their Weibo accounts, compared to seven in January and 10 in February.

Most violations involve citizens attempting to break rules, such as reporting trips on a health app, falsifying COVID-19 test results, and excluding locked neighborhoods.

Attacks on health workers also increased.

Police are also reporting arrests of citizens who blew up discontent and used inappropriate language in connection with the pandemic.

While the resentment is simmering, authorities are trying to control the public message, often censoring online complaints.

On April 5, videos of a protest against lockdowns in Langfang, a city near Beijing, were quickly removed from Weibo.

Last week, Shanghai announced a crackdown on “rumors” threatening to shut down abusive chat groups on social media.

But withdrawing from the public can yield results.

Last month, students at the University of Sichuan in the city of Chengdu forced university authorities to lift a campus closure following protests, the South China Morning Post reported.

State media warnings have sometimes added fuel to the fire.

Thousands of social media posts used a Weibo hashtag for a report by the official Xinhua news agency on police alleging misinformation from COVID-19 to criticize the government’s response to coronavirus.

By Friday, it had been viewed more than half a billion times.

Growing challenge of COVID-19 curbs in China brings wave of arrests – SABC News

Source link Growing challenge of COVID-19 curbs in China brings wave of arrests – SABC News

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