Guangzhou residents riot against China's zero-Covid measures, tear down barricades & test booths

Boiling point.

Kayla Wong | November 16, 2022, 12:30 PM

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Large groups of people in the Chinese city of Guangzhou have erupted in protests against the government's increasingly harsh zero-Covid measures.

Multiple videos of the mass riots on Monday (Nov. 14) circulated on Twitter.

Chaos erupted amid cheers

The videos appeared to show crowds of people tearing down barricades and even testing centres.

Loud cheers could be heard in the background.

In one such video, onlookers cheered on a man who was destroying a testing booth in broad daylight.

Epidemic prevention workers in personal protective equipment (PPE) and white hazmat suits, whom disgruntled locals refer to as "Da Bai" or "Big White", could only look on helplessly.

Rioters even overturned a police car, as seemingly depicted in another video.

The videos could not be independently verified, according to Reuters.

Frustrated migrant workers took part in protests

According to the BBC's China correspondent Stephen McDonell, the nighttime riots were conducted by migrant workers who have lost their jobs and pay as a result of factories shutting down and construction sites closing.

Further complicating their plight was the shortage of food, as well as the rising cost of being stuck in lockdown indefinitely without an income.

He added that prior to the protests, rumours had broken out  among the workers that testing companies were faking PCR test results to artificially boost infection numbers and earn more profits.

To put a stop to the clashes, riot teams have been deployed, he reported.

These workers were staying in the city's Haizhu district, which has been under lockdown since Nov. 5, according to CNN,

As further indication of the locals' frustration at the stringent Covid measures, a video showed residents singing, from their apartment windows, the song "Boundless Oceans, Vast Skies" by wildly influential Cantopop band Beyond, which talks about the desire for freedom.

Several major cities, including Beijing, have reported record Covid-19 cases, with new infections reaching a fresh high of 6,296 in Guangzhou on Wednesday, Nov. 16, Reuters reported.

Out of these new cases, 158 were symptomatic while 6,138 were asymptomatic. There were 5,124 cases the day before.

Videos of protests scrubbed from Chinese "intranet"

Videos showing the purported riots in Guangzhou could no longer be found on China's most popular social media platform Weibo, and most posts discussing the topic that still remain, are of the opinion that the rioters should not have done what they did.

When a Weibo user accused Guangzhou residents of not cooperating with the authorities to do their tests, claiming that the lockdown had only lasted this long due to these acts of non-compliance, many disagreed with him.

However, another user defended him by saying he was actually referring to illegal migrant workers who supposedly avoided testing out of fear of being arrested.

Under China's tough Covid measures, daily testing has been mandated as a means to control the spread of the virus.

Planned ease in Covid measures even as cases surge

Amid a surge of Covid cases nationwide, China has announced a series of changes to its Covid measures that will see a significant reduction in intensity, such as reducing the quarantine time for close contacts of new cases, as well as for travellers, according to Bloomberg.

Local officials are also discouraged from conducting city-wide testings when faced with outbreaks.

Nevertheless, China has stressed that these changes do not mean that the country is ready to "take a laid-back approach" towards the pandemic, as Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said on Nov. 11.

China's top decision making body, the Politburo Standing Committee, has called for the people's unwavering support for the country's zero-Covid stance, in spite of rising widespread discontentment among the people towards this policy.

Jin Dong-yan, a virologist at the University of Hong Kong, told Bloomberg that while the policy changes are in the right direction, it would be the most stable approach for China to take slow steps in terms of changes, and that it is "not possible" for China to reach the endgame immediately.

Top image via Twitter