Police on Monday stopped and searched people at the sites of weekend protests in Shanghai and Beijing, after crowds there and in other Chinese cities demonstrated against stringent COVID-19 measures disrupting lives three years into the pandemic.
From the streets of several Chinese cities to dozens of university campuses, protesters made a show of civil disobedience unprecedented since leader Xi Jinping assumed power a decade ago. During his tenure, Xi has overseen the quashing of dissent and expansion of a high-tech social surveillance system that has made protest more difficult, and riskier.
There was no sign of new protests on Monday in Beijing or Shanghai, but dozens of police were in the areas where the demonstrations took place.
Police have been asking people for their phones to check if they had virtual private networks (VPNs) and the Telegram app, which has been used by weekend protesters, residents and social media users said. VPNs are illegal for most people in China, while the Telegram app is blocked from China’s internet.
Asked about widespread anger over China’s zero-COVID policy, foreign ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian told reporters: “What you mentioned does not reflect what actually happened.
“We believe that with the leadership of the Communist Party of China, and cooperation and support of the Chinese people, our fight against COVID-19 will be successful.”