Chinese citizens feel empowered after protests over “draconian COVID-19 restrictions” prompted Chinese authorities to relax regulations, a human rights researcher told Fox News.
“People are fed up with the restrictions,” said Yaqiu Wang, a senior China researcher with Human Rights Watch. “There is so much pent-up anger and frustration because there have been massive human rights violations as a result of the restrictions, not because of COVID itself.”
In the final days of November, demonstrations erupted in several cities across China 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 protest in China is useless because the government is too powerful,” Wang said. “But this is an example of when you actually go out and ask for what you want, or at least get some of it, you get it.”
Chinese officials eased COVID-19 restrictions after Chinese citizens in several cities protested the country’s strict “zero-COVID” policy, which has led to citywide lockdowns, mandatory COVID-19 testing and mass quarantine. According to a Tiananmen Square protester, Beijing is changing course on its strict policies to suppress protests as the “zero-COVID” approach weighs on residents.
“This needs to be understood in the context of three years of draconian COVID restrictions,” Wang said. To enter a hospital, grocery store or company office, Chinese residents must “show a negative result.”
“Some people had medical emergencies, but they could not reach the hospital because they could not leave their homes, and some of those people died,” Wang continued.
WATCH: CHINA CENSORS STRUGGLE WITH VARIATION OF PROTEST VIDEOS; Protesters learn “slick” loopholes
Asked whether the Biden administration supports Chinese citizens’ right to protest, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said, “Of course we do.”
“We support the right of people everywhere, whether in China, whether in Iran or elsewhere, to peacefully protest, voice their views, vent their frustration,” Blinken said.
Despite Chinese authorities easing restrictions, monitoring and crackdown on protesters has been tough, according to Wang.
“I’ve heard from sources who told me they went into the protest scenes thinking they were anonymous,” she said. “But later they were visited by the police.”
“They went to the protest scene yesterday and were visited by the police today,” Wang continued. “The police worked fairly efficiently.”
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Wang said she believes her sources were being tracked by police using surveillance footage or the location services on their phones.
Regardless of police enforcement, residents feel the authorities’ easing of restrictions are gains, Wang said.
“People feel very empowered because in this very repressive country you feel like you have no say in how you are governed,” she said. “You’re depressed because you can’t control your own destiny.”
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“People are taking big risks to protest in China,” Wang said. “In a way, the government is responding to that.”
“It’s an empowering feeling,” she continued.
To watch the full interview with Yaqiu Wang, click here.