Biden administration reacts with caution to China protests

“As we said, we think it will be difficult for the people of the Republic of China to contain the virus through their Covid-free plan,” the spokesperson said in the statement, adding that measures such as increasing vaccination rates prevention of disease. more useful. “We’ve said for a long time that everyone has the right to protest peacefully, here in the United States and around the world. This includes the PRC.”

During a White House press conference later in the day, NSC Communications Director John Kirby said that Biden had been briefed on the China incident. Kirby agreed that Biden has warned that the world’s democracies face challenges from authoritarian movements, but he refused to go over the NSC’s statement that the US supports the right to peaceful protest.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Rep. Chris Smith (RN.J.) called the administration’s stance on the protest “cowardly.” The two senators accused Biden of not aligning with the CCP and supporting the Chinese,” in a statement released on Monday.

As of midday Monday in Washington, the number of protesters has dwindled in Beijing and Shanghai over the past 24 hours. But the news about the show is spreading the city of Hangzhou on Monday showed that the authorities have not stopped the anger – including calls to end Xi’s rule – which has brought people to the streets.

Biden’s aides are well aware that the move can be unpredictable. Protests in China are not new, but they are often limited in scope, and the Chinese Communist Party is quick to crush anything it perceives as a serious challenge to its authority.

A US official familiar with the matter, who like others for this story spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal negotiations, said the Biden administration should consider several factors in deciding how to respond. A strong US statement, for example, could lead the Chinese government to turn its attention to the United States and accuse “foreign interference” instead of addressing the plight of the protesters.

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Despite the crisis, the United States still wants to maintain stability and cooperation with China, a global power and economic partner whose help it needs in everything from disease preparedness to fighting for climate change.

Biden’s team’s response to the Chinese protests could be different from the quick and loud support for the protests in Iran, which have been going on since mid-September. But Iran is the region’s best-known Islamist regime and has been America’s staunchest enemy for more than 40 years, and there is little trade or other cooperation between the two countries.

Officials across the U.S. government are closely watching what’s happening in China — including how the government treats journalists covering the protests — and are in regular discussions about how to respond. , the US official said.

The discussion included Biden’s health officials who, as recently as Monday, shared with the NSC their analysis of the Covid-19 situation in China, including the debate on how far the virus can continue to spread in the country. whole. The rising number of Covid infections in China suggests that the virus has outgrown current lockdown measures and that Beijing may implement stricter restrictions in the coming days, according to a person familiar with the talks.

An NSC spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the health-related discussion.

Initial reports about the protests, which were spearheaded by the NSC, were somewhat muddled by the Thanksgiving holiday, a US official familiar with the matter said. “It is not for the United States to comment on this protest. It is for the protesters,” the official added.

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In an apparent response to the protests, Chinese officials have announced minor changes to their zero-Covid plans. For example, Beijing officials said they would not set up barriers to prevent access to housing developments where infections have been found. But, as media reports describe the changes, there is no sign that the Communist government supports this whole plan, which seeks to isolate anyone infected with the disease in order to contain a possible local outbreak. expand and expand China’s health system.

Xi has acquired extraordinary powers in China, blocking consensus along the way. Its leadership was announced last month during the Communist Party’s five-year congress. That any Chinese protestors called for his departure is surprising. During the party, Xi emphasized his support for the zero-Covid policy.

Amidst the protests, the US Embassy in Beijing issued a Covid-focused statement assuring American citizens in China that their safety is a top priority. He urged them to “provide yourself and every member of your family with medicine, bottled water, and food for 14 days.”

In recent weeks, US and European officials have discussed whether and how to share vaccines with Beijing. This month, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced an agreement to allow Germans to obtain BioNTech mRNA from China. In return, Scholz said he would support the legalization of Chinese vaccines in the European Union. China has not approved any mRNA vaccines for use in the country and instead relies on its own vaccinations, which are ineffective in controlling disease rates.

As news of the protests spread online, evading the Chinese census, some US lawmakers issued strong statements. Republicans emerged as the majority, although there was widespread bipartisan opposition in Beijing and Congress.

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“The Chinese people are pushing back against the Xi regime and the #CCP. Americans everywhere support you in unity…freedom for China!” Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) tweeted.

“The CCP is a bad government,” Tweet Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) “Continuing protests against Communist China show that the Chinese people are asking for change.”

The protests have taken place in major cities including Shanghai, Beijing, Wuhan, Chengdu and Xi’an.

Chinese security forces have arrived at the protest site in large numbers but have responded with relative restraint. Police have called on protesters to disperse in Shanghai on Sunday started arresting protesters who remained in the main ruins of the city. The police have too set up a high barrier on selected streets in Shanghai to prevent protesters from returning.

Chinese security officials pointedly denied foreign media coverage of the show. Shanghai Police beat him, handcuff him and hold him for a while BBC reporter Ed Lawrence on Sunday filmed the protesters. The police later said they did this “for his own good in case he caught Covid in the crowd.” The Chinese Foreign Press Association said that a statement on Monday that he is very saddened by the police seeking foreign media at the protest.

A representative of the Office of the United Nations’ High Commissioner for Human Rights urged Beijing to respect the right to peaceful protest. OHCHR spokesman Jeremy Laurence told reporters on Monday, “No one should be arrested for peacefully expressing their views.

The Chinese government declined to comment directly on the protests. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian on Monday denied knowledge of the protesters calling for Xi to step down.

Zhao blamed “militants with malicious intent” for linking the deadly Xinjiang fires to public anger over the zero-Covid policy. China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs removed the questions and answers from the daily news transcript.

Erin Banco and Kelly Hooper contributed to this report.


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