Sunday, 29 Jan 2023

China sends students home amid calls for crackdown on protests

China sends students home amid calls for crackdown on protests


China sends students home amid calls for crackdown on protests

In an apparent effort to tackle anger at the zero-Covid policies that originally sparked the protests, authorities also announced plans to step up vaccination of older people.

Such a move is a vital precursor to loosening controls without mass deaths or overwhelming the health system in a country where there is almost no natural immunity to Covid, after nearly three years of trying to eliminate the virus.

The death of 10 people in a fire in Urumqi city was one of the triggers for the protests, amid claims they had been locked into their homes under Covid control rules.

Originally centred on calls to end harsh controls, the protests morphed into broader demands including for democracy, and for Xi to step down.

Before the crowds gathered, the demonstrations seemed unthinkable. Xi has ramped up surveillance, censorship and controls on civil society during his decade in power; just a month earlier, a banner hung by a solitary protester on a Beijing bridge made international headlines.

However, Chinese authorities have detailed plans to deal with any form of unrest, and security forces are already trying to identify and round up some who took part.

Two protesters told Reuters that callers identifying themselves as Beijing police officers asked them to report to a police station on Tuesday with written accounts of their activities on Sunday night. A student also said they were asked by their college if they had been in an area where a protest happened and to provide a written account.

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