Crowds of rioters fighting Communist Party officials, flipping over at least one police car, and destroying barricades on the locked-down streets of Guangzhou, China, consumed the city on Monday night, videos shared on social media and verified by multiple news sources revealed.
The riots are the latest indication of mounting, nationwide civil unrest threatening the totalitarian regime, clearly exacerbated by dictator Xi Jinping’s insistence on using lockdowns to contain the spread of Chinese coronavirus. China remains the only major country in the world to place entire cities under house arrest as a form of fighting the pandemic that it began in late 2019 and has defied calls from the World Health Organization (W.H.O.), with which it typically maintains a friendly relationship, to stop imprisoning people and shutting down businesses in the name of public health.
Guangzhou is the regional capital of southern Guangdong province, a critical metropolitan area home to over 15 million people. Last week, Chinese state media cited local officials as confirming an increase in documented coronavirus cases, claiming a “complicated and severe epidemic situation” that necessitated shutting down schools and businesses. China’s public health officials announced changes in quarantine protocol for incoming travelers, but insisted that loosening restrictions for foreigners was “not relaxing prevention and control, let alone opening up and ‘laying flat’, but to adapt to the new situation of epidemic prevention.” “Laying flat” is a derisive term Chinese communists use for governments that did not use the pandemic to trample on their citizens’ civil rights.
The “optimization” did not result in the residents of Haizhu district, Guangzhou, escaping a lockdown, though officials have not imposed civil rights restrictions on the entire city as of press time. Reports of growing frustrations among residents began surfacing on Sunday and Monday. The anti-communist New Tang Dynasty documented a growing list of incidents in which desperate mothers seeking medical treatment for their feverish children shouted down government health officials in public.
“The child has a fever of 39 degrees [C, 102.2ºF]. Is he going to burn to 40 degrees [104ºF],” one mother holding a nine-month-old infant shouted at a health worker denying her entry into a clinic, according to New Tang Dynasty. “No one cares about it. I really don’t understand.”
The report preceded a deluge of social media videos surfacing from Monday night local time in Guangzhou of crowds of people rioting in the streets, tearing down barricades and fighting workers in hazmat suits. Radio Free Asia (RFA) verified one of the videos appearing to show a street littered with broken-down barricades and police trucks rushing to the scene. RFA claimed that factory workers panicking over a lack of “supplies,” presumably food and medicine, led the “large-scale riots.”
— 自由亚洲电台 (@RFA_Chinese) November 14, 2022
RFA verified another video from Guangzhou on Tuesday showing buildings with trapped residents protesting the lockdown from within their homes by singing a Hong Kong protest anthem. The Communist Party crushed the Hong Kong anti-communist movement that began in 2019 by passing a “national security” law, through the National People’s Congress in Beijing that does not have legal authority over Hong Kong, that essentially outlawed all anti-communist dissent.
— 自由亚洲电台 (@RFA_Chinese) November 15, 2022
The Agence France-Presse (AFP) verified several other videos and estimated that hundreds of people had partaken in anti-lockdown riots on Monday night.
“A few scuffled with officials in hazmat suits … Another video shows a man trying to swim across a waterway that separates the affected district of Haizhu from the neighbouring area,” AFP observed, “with passers-by suggesting the man was trying to escape the lockdown.”
The Taiwanese television network TVBN aired the footage of citizens overturning a police car and a brawl that appeared to feature at least a dozen government workers in Hazmat suits. The footage appears to be taken from ground level but of the same incident as the events filmed from above in other viral social media videos. Notably, many of those rioting also appear to be wearing sanitary masks, a sign they believe the government’s warning that the spread of Chinese coronavirus remains a high-level threat.
Tonight, a riot broke out in #Guangzhou city, #CCPChina. The crowd cheered and applauded while pushing into the #Covid #lockdown fence. One man stormed into the district government. A large number of police officers rushed to the scene.
Enough is enough! #CCPVirus pic.twitter.com/c2bdpFJpcs
— Jennifer Zeng 曾錚 (@jenniferzeng97) November 14, 2022
— Richard (@RCarousell) November 14, 2022
The BBC verified a video showing “some overturning a police vehicle and tearing down [Chinese coronavirus] control barriers.” It noted the demographics of Haizhou – a more industrial, working-class area – may have added to the stress of lockdowns, as factory workers typically cannot work from home and thus lose significant portions of their salary when the government forces them into house arrest. Chinese officials have alleviated some lockdown measures in areas where wealthy Communist Party elites live – conspicuously sparing Beijing, the national capital, from total lockdown despite the high number of documented cases – but not eased civil rights violations in areas with poorer or less well-connected residents.
In an apparent sign that the situation in Guangzhou was attracting undue international attention, the state-run China Daily newspaper claimed in a report on Monday that “certain progress has been achieved” in preventing the virus from spreading in Haizhou.
“However, based on the latest monitoring results, the risk of epidemic transmission has not been completely eliminated, with the pandemic situation in the district remaining uncertain, challenging and complex,” China Daily added, “according to Su Mingqing, deputy district head of Haizhu.”
Guangzhou endured one of 2020’s most brutal lockdowns at the onset of the pandemic. The city is also home to one of the country’s largest African populations, resulting in widespread racism against black-skinned people who locals blamed for spreading the virus. Businesses – most notably in the West, McDonald’s – posted signs banning black people from entering.
“We’ve been informed that from now on black people are not allowed to enter the restaurant. For the sake of your health consciously notify the local police for medical isolation, please understand the inconvenience caused,” an English-language sign on a local McDonald’s read.
Landlords abruptly evicted black tenants and hotels refused to accept them, resulting in many being forced to sleep on the street during a lockdown.