With large police forces taking to the streets, protests in China over the country’s strict COVID-19 mitigation measures faded as health officials reported a slight decline in new infections.
No new protests were reported on Tuesday after many took to the streets over the weekend in the largest showing of opposition to the Chinese Communist Party in decades.
But heavy police presence on Tuesday was reported across major cities in China, including Beijing and Shanghai. A witness told the Associated Press that police were performing random phone checks at the People’s Square subway station in Shanghai on Monday evening. Police have also reportedly made calls asking protesters about their participation in the events.
China’s domestic security chief on Tuesday vowed to “effectively maintain overall social stability” without mentioning the protests.
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Officials relaxed some regulations in an apparent attempt to appease the public, but experts don’t expect the country to end its overall strict mitigation measures anytime soon despite the protests.
China on Tuesday reported a decline in daily COVID-19 infections for the first time in over a week. Health officials said that most of the more than 38,000 new cases were asymptomatic.
The country’s “zero COVID” strategy aims to isolate every coronavirus case and appears to have previously helped the country to avoid massive waves of COVID-19. However, patience over the policy has waned as citizens have been under lockdowns for months at a time.
The Biden administration has made clear it doesn’t believe China’s “zero COVID” strategy is sustainable, but it seems to be choosing its words carefully in the aftermath of the protests.
“We’re watching this closely, as you might expect we would,” National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said on Monday. “And again, we continue to stand up and support the right of peaceful protest.”
But Biden has been tight-lipped on any specifics and hasn’t released a statement on the events.
“The president is staying briefed on what’s going on inside China,” Kirby said.