Chinese citizens feel empowered after protests over “draconian COVID-19 restrictions” led Chinese authorities to relax regulations, a human rights researcher told Fox News.
“People are fed up with the restrictions,” said Yaqiu Wang, senior China researcher for Human Rights Watch. “There is so much pent up anger and frustration because there have been massive human rights abuses because of the restrictions, not because of COVID itself.”
Demonstrations erupted in several cities across China in the final days of November as residents took to the streets to protest the country’s “zero-COVID” policy. In some cities like Wuhan, protests turned violent as police and residents clashed.
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“We often say that the protest in China is useless because the government is too powerful,” Wang said. “But this is an example that if you go out and ask for what you want, you get it, or at least you get some of it.”
Chinese authorities have eased COVID-19 restrictions after Chinese citizens in several cities protested the country’s strict “zero-COVID” policy that has led to city-wide shutdowns, testing Mandatory COVID-19 and mass quarantine. Beijing has changed course on tough policies to help quell protests as the “zero-COVID” approach is taking its toll on residents, according to a protester in Tiananmen Square.
“It has to be understood in the context of three years of draconian COVID restrictions,” Wang said. To enter a hospital, grocery store or corporate office, Chinese residents “must 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.
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When asked if the Biden administration supports the rights of Chinese citizens to protest, Secretary of State Antony Blinken replied, “Of course we do.”
“We support the right of people everywhere, whether in China, Iran or elsewhere, to peacefully protest, to make their views known, to express their frustrations,” Blinken said.
Although Chinese authorities have eased restrictions, surveillance and crackdowns on protesters have been harsh, according to Wang.
“I heard sources tell me that they had been to the scene of the protest and believed they were anonymous,” she said. “But later they were visited by the police.”
“They went to the scene of the protest yesterday and they were visited by the police today,” Wang continued. “The police were operating quite efficiently.”
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Wang said she believed her sources had been tracked by police using surveillance footage or through their phone location services.
Regardless of police enforcement, residents believe the authorities’ easing of restrictions is a victory, Wang said.
“People feel very empowered because living in this very repressive country, you feel you have no 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 it.”
“It’s an empowering feeling,” she continued.
To watch Yaqiu Wang’s full interview, click here.