Beijing Retreat: Chinese citizens have been “empowered” by COVID protests, says Chinese researcher

Chinese citizens are feeling empowered after protests against “draconian restrictions related to COVID-19” have prompted Chinese authorities to ease regulations, a human rights researcher told Fox News.

“People are tired of restrictions,” said Yaqiu Wang, senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch. “There is a lot of pent-up anger and frustration that massive human rights abuses are happening as a result of the restrictions, not because of COVID itself.”

Demonstrations broke out in many cities in China in the last days of November, as residents took to the streets to protest against the country’s “no spread of coronavirus” policies. In some cities like Wuhan, protests have turned violent as police and residents clash.

Watch a human rights researcher explain China’s coronavirus protests:

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“We often say that protesting in China is useless because the government is too powerful,” Wang said. “But this is an example of if you really go out and ask for what you want, you get it, or at least you get some of it.”

Chinese officials eased COVID-19 restrictions after Chinese citizens in several cities protested the country’s strict “zero COVID” policy that has led to citywide lockdowns, mandatory COVID-19 testing and mass quarantines. Beijing changed course on tough policies to help quell protests because the “zero COVID” approach is negatively affecting residents, according to a protester in Tiananmen Square.

Demonstrators hold candles as they march in Beijing following the nationwide coronavirus protests.
(AP Photo/By Han Guan)

“This should be understood in the context of three years of strict restrictions on the novel coronavirus,” Wang said. To enter a hospital, grocery store or company office, Chinese residents are required to “show a negative result”.

“Some people had medical emergencies, but they couldn’t get to the hospital because they couldn’t leave their apartment, and some of those people died,” Wang continued.

WATCH: China Censorship Suffers Increase in Protest Videos; Protesters learn ‘cutting edge’ loopholes

When asked if the Biden administration supports the rights of Chinese citizens to protest, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, “Of course we do.”

“We support the right of people everywhere, whether it’s in China, Iran, or anywhere else, to peacefully protest, speak out, and express their frustration,” Blinken said.

Although the Chinese authorities have eased restrictions, the monitoring and crackdown on protesters has been harsh, according to Wang.

Chinese protesters feel empowered after officials eased some COVID-19 restrictions, said Yaqiu Wang, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch.

Chinese protesters feel empowered after officials eased some COVID-19 restrictions, said Yaqiu Wang, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch.
(Fox News Digital/John Michael Rush)

“I heard about sources telling me that they went to the protest squares and thought they were unknown,” she said. But the police visited them later.

“They went to the protest site yesterday, and the police visited them today,” Wang continued. “The police were working in a very efficient way.”

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Wang said she believes the police tracked down her sources using surveillance footage or through their phones’ location services.

Regardless of police enforcement, Wang said, residents feel it is a win for the authorities to ease restrictions.

Chinese police officers blocked access to a site where protesters gathered in Shanghai on Sunday, November 27, 2022.

Chinese police officers blocked access to a site where protesters gathered in Shanghai on Sunday, November 27, 2022.
(AP Photo)

“People feel very empowering because living in this very repressive country, you feel like you don’t have a say in how you are governed,” she said. “You are depressed because you cannot control your own destiny.”

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“People are taking great risks to protest in China,” Wang said. “In a way, the government is responding to that.”

“It’s a strong feeling,” she continued.

To see the full interview with Yaqiu Wang, click here.

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