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13 Oct 2022, 10:33 pm

China Covid: Rare protest against President Xi before party congress

Quote:
A rare protest attacking President Xi Jinping and China's Covid restrictions has taken place in Beijing, days before a historic Communist Party congress.

Images showed two protest banners on a bridge in the north-west of the city. The protest appeared to have been swiftly stopped by the authorities.

Frustration has been mounting in the capital before the congress.

There has been an outpouring of anger online at strict security measures and the Covid restrictions put in place.

Authorities have tightened access to the city, shutting out many travellers, returning residents and deliveries. Others had their movement restricted or were forced to quarantine.

The images and footage of the protest that have been circulating showed two large banners unfurled on a bridge in Beijing's Haidian district.

Video from the scene showed unexplained thick plumes of smoke on the bridge and a man could be heard chanting slogans into a loudhailer.

A BBC team visit to the scene later found no trace of it, but there was a visible police presence in the area.

The week-long 20th Party Congress, due to kick off on Sunday, will see about 2,300 top officials and party delegates descend upon the capital.

China's leader Xi Jinping is expected to be handed a third term, breaking decades-long tradition and shoring up his already firm grip on power.

Authorities are cracking down on the use of virtual private networks circumventing China's firewalls, to restrict access to the internet beyond Communist Party control.

But in an attempt to stamp out small Covid outbreaks in Beijing as the congress nears, city authorities are enforcing much stricter measures than most other parts of China.

Tens of millions of residents are being tested every three days, with screenings for entry to all buildings enforced and mask-wearing mandates policed.

Officials have also heavily restricted the number of people entering the city and discouraged residents from leaving.

Many people who travelled to other cities during a recent National Day holiday found that their online health codes - essential for travel around the country - suddenly indicated they were at risk of Covid infection, preventing them from getting on trains or flights back to Beijing.

Others who managed to return to Beijing saw a similar change in their health codes days after returning, according to online accounts, forcing them to quarantine at home.

Several recent incidents, including a bus crash that killed 27 people who were being transported to quarantine camps, have sparked public anger.

The frustration is at odds with the celebratory mood for the 20th Party Congress on display on state media and institutions.


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