The zero-covid policy in China was very unpopular since its conception. The policy left people trapped in their homes or businesses being unable to leave for even basic necessities. This spawned videos of public officials drilling boards to the outside of doors in apartment complexes and homes.
Videos of protestors tearing down barricades and attacking guards began to pop-up on major news outlets across the world. But this was at a time when the entire world was on lockdown with strict travel bans and closures in place everywhere. As some of the world emerged on the other side, China was seemingly still dealing with outbreaks.
Now that China has emerged into its post-covid era it seems that government officials kept note of protestors and dissenters from the early days of the lockdowns. Unnamed officials have reached out to many news outlets to inform the that protestors are being arrested for events they participated in dating back to 2021. When the protests were happening, the police had made a few arrests but had seemingly allowed the crowd to voice its opinion against the policies.
Human Rights groups have begun to publish lists with the names of the detained on them. One list from the Beijing protests has caught a lot of attention because a majority of those who were detained are women. This has drawn a lot of attention to China’s crackdown on women’s rights, especially those they deem as “activists”. The odd part about the Beijing arrests is that the protest was very peaceful. There were no clashes with police, and it mainly involved holding up a blank white sheet of paper as a signal of frustration. A friend of one of the detainees claims, “They didn’t think they were participating in a movement when they went…”
The goal of the roundups is to seemingly target the “important” figures involved and ensure that there was no outside influence on the protest. It is likely that China will severely punish the leaders to scare the rest of the protestors into submission. People familiar with those who attended the protest have been increasingly silent as the crackdown on dissent has progressed.
This sort of crackdown, followed by silence, is generally because the government informs the families that their silence will save the prisoner as well as their pensions and jobs. This gets the cooperation of the families quickly and prevents dissent from being spread further. The good news is that with international pressure quickly building up, these prisoners will likely receive better treatment, and an early release.
The detained are still in some contact with their friends on the outside. They state that they are remaining positive and hopeful, that they will be released soon, and that “their spirits are up”.