The White House and US State Department have spoken out against China’s zero-COVID policy and supported the ongoing protests across the country.
“We’ve said zero-COVID is not a policy that we have here,” a spokesman for the White House National Security Council told Fox News Digital on Monday. “And as we have said before, we believe it will be very difficult for the People’s Republic of China to contain this virus through its zero-COVID strategy.”
The comments come as massive protests have raged across China in recent days, spreading to 20 provinces and the cities of Beijing and Shanghai, with some urging President Biden to say more in support of the protesters.
Lisa Daftari, a foreign policy commentator for Foreign Desk News, drew parallels with the protests in China and those still taking place in Iran, arguing that people were rebelling against corrupt political systems like communism and theocracy.
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“The media got it both wrong,” Daftari said on Twitter on Monday. “Biden admin silent.”
The protests began after a deadly fire at a residential building in the provincial capital of Urumqi in Xinjiang killed ten people. Due to the blocking measures in the city for more than 100 days, the city fire brigade arrived at the scene with a delay.
City residents began taking to the streets shortly after the tragedy, marching on government buildings and demanding an end to the city’s tight lockdown.
Despite the fire in the country’s far west, protests quickly spread across the country, a rare show of resistance to the Chinese Communist Party. Protesters across the country took to the streets to demand an end to China’s zero-COVID policy, which has led to three years of strict lockdowns in many cities. Some demonstrators called for freedom and democracy and others for the removal of Chinese President Xi Jinping.
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A video from Shanghai shows authorities in China trying to crack down on the protests, with a protester being arrested while attempting to give a speech in support of the victims while holding up a bouquet of yellow flowers. Other demonstrators protested the man’s arrest as police forced him into a police car and escorted him away from the scene.
Crackdowns by security forces in the country helped moderate protests slightly from Monday, although reports from China suggest demonstrations are likely to pick up again in the days that follow. A State Department spokesman told Fox News Digital that the US supports the rights of peaceful protesters around the world.
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“We have long said that everyone has the right to protest peacefully, in the United States and around the world. This also includes the PRC,” the spokesman said.
The protesters received some support from the UK, with British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly urging the Chinese government to respect the rights of protesters and journalists after a BBC journalist was arrested in China.
“Freedom of the media and freedom of protest must be respected. No country is exempt,” Cleverly said on Twitter on Monday. “The arrest of BBC journalist @EP_Lawrence in China is deeply worrying. Journalists need to be able to do their job without intimidation.”
Meanwhile, a spokesman for UN Secretary-General António Guterres did not comment on China’s COVID policy, but urged the authorities to respect the protesters.
“We have seen some videos of demonstrations and our reaction is the same as for the whole world. We believe in the importance of people’s right to peaceful assembly and association and their right to demonstrate peacefully and to press the authorities to guarantee that right,” spokesman Stéphane Dujarric said on Monday.