Shanghai hit by covid protests as public anger over unending curbs spread across China

News Network
November 27, 2022

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Shanghai/Beijing, Nov 27: Protests against China's heavy COVID-19 curbs spread to more cities, including the financial hub Shanghai on Sunday, nearly three years into the pandemic, with a fresh wave of anger sparked by a deadly fire in the country's far west.

The fire on Thursday that killed 10 people in a high-rise building in Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang region, has sparked widespread public anger. Many internet users surmised that residents could not escape in time because the building was partially locked down, which city officials denied.

The fire has fuelled a wave of civil disobedience unprecedented in mainland China since Xi Jinping assumed power a decade ago.

In Shanghai, China's most populous city, residents gathered on Saturday night at Wulumuqi Road - which is named after Urumqi - for a candlelight vigil that turned into a protest in the early hours of Sunday.

As a large group of police looked on, the crowd held up blank sheets of paper - a protest symbol against censorship. Later on, they shouted, “lift lockdown for Urumqi, lift lockdown for Xinjiang, lift lockdown for all of China!”, according to a video circulated on social media.

At another point a large group began shouting, “Down with the Chinese Communist Party, down with Xi Jinping", according to witnesses and videos, in a rare public protest against the country's leadership.

The police tried at times to break up the crowd.

Beijing is adhering to a zero-COVID policy even while much of the world tries to coexist with the coronavirus. While low by global standards, China's cases have hit record highs for days, with nearly 40,000 new infections reported on Sunday for the previous day.

China defends Xi's signature zero-COVID policy as life-saving and necessary to prevent overwhelming the healthcare system. Officials have vowed to continue with it despite the growing public pushback and its mounting toll on the world's second-biggest economy.

Widespread public protest is extremely rare in China, where room for dissent has been all-but eliminated under Xi, forcing citizens mostly to vent on social media, where they play cat-and-mouse with censors.

Frustration is boiling just over a month after Xi secured a third term at the helm of China's Communist Party.

"This will put serious pressure on the party to respond. There is a good chance that one response will be repression, and they will arrest and prosecute some protesters," said Dan Mattingly, assistant professor of political science at Yale University.

Still, he said, the unrest is far from approaching that seen in 1989, when protests across the country culminated in the bloody crackdown in Tiananmen Square.

"Popular sentiment matters," he said. "But as long as there is no split in the elite and as long the PLA (People's Liberation Army) and security services remain on his side he does not face any meaningful risk to his hold on power."

The next few weeks could be China's worst since the early weeks of the pandemic for the economy and the healthcare system, Mark Williams of Capital Economics said in note last week, as containing the outbreak will require additional lockdowns.

In the northwestern city of Lanzhou, residents on Saturday upturned COVID staff tents and smashed testing booths, posts widely shared on social media showed. Protesters said they were put under lockdown even though no one had tested positive.

Candlelight vigils for the Urumqi victims took place in universities in cities including Nanjing and Beijing.

Internet users showed solidarity by posting blank white squares on their WeChat timelines or on Weibo. By Sunday morning, the hashtag "white paper exercise" was blocked on Weibo.

Videos from Shanghai showed crowds facing police and chanting “Serve the people”, “We want freedom", and “We don’t want health codes”, a reference to the mobile phone apps that must be scanned for entry into public places across China.

The Shanghai government did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Sunday.

The city's 25 million people were put under lockdown for two months earlier this year, an ordeal that provoked anger and protests.

Chinese authorities have since then sought to be more targeted in their COVID curbs, an effort that has been challenged by the surge in infections as the country faces its first winter with the highly transmissible Omicron variant.

On Friday night, crowds took to the streets of Urumqi, chanting "End the lockdown!" and pumping their fists in the air after the fire, according to videos on social media.

Many of Urumqi's 4 million residents have been under some of the country's longest lockdowns, barred from leaving their homes for as long as 100 days.

In Beijing, 2,700 km (1,700 miles) away, some residents under lockdown staged small protests or confronted local officials on Saturday over movement restrictions, with some successfully pressuring them into lifting the curbs ahead of a schedule.

A video shared with Reuters showed Beijing residents marching in an unidentifiable part of the capital on Saturday, shouting "End the lockdown!"

The Beijing government did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

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News Network
January 22,2023

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At least nine people were killed and others hurt when a gunman opened fire at a dance studio in Monterey Park on Saturday night, according to law enforcement sources and witnesses.

The shooting occurred on the 100 block of West Garvey Avenue at around 10:22 p.m., the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said.

Seung Won Choi, who owns a seafood barbecue restaurant on Garvey Avenue across from where the shooting happened, said three people rushed into his restaurant and told him to lock the door.

They said there was a man with a semiautomatic gun in the area. The shooter, they said, had multiple rounds of ammunition on him, so that once his ammunition ran out he reloaded, Choi said.

Wong Wei, who lives nearby, said his friend had gone to the dance club that night with a few of her friends. His friend was in the bathroom when the shooting started.

When she came out, he said, she saw a gunman and three bodies — two women and one person who he said was the boss of the club, Wei said. He said his friend escaped to his home around 11 p.m.

The shooter was carrying a long gun and appeared to fire indiscriminately, his friends told him.

“They don’t know why, so they run,” he said.

The shooting occurred near the site of a Chinese Lunar New Year celebration. Tens of thousands had gathered Saturday for the start of a two-day festival, one of the largest Lunar New Year events in the region.

Earlier in the day, crowds were enjoying skewers and shopping for Chinese food and jewelry. Saturday’s New Year festival hours were scheduled from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

John, 27, who declined to give his last name, lives near the shooting site. He got home around 10 p.m. and heard about 4 or 5 gunshots, he said. Then he heard police cruisers “smashing” down the street. He went downstairs at around 11:20 p.m. to see if the shooting occurred at the New Year festival.

“My first concern was I know they’re having a Lunar New Year celebration,” he said. But he said he saw that the festival had already been cleaned up for the day when he arrived. He went to the scene of the shooting and saw one person being put on a stretcher. Another person had a bandage on their arm.

Video on social media showed police and fire units swarming an area on Garvey Avenue and treating victims.

Injured people were taken to multiple hospitals in the area.

It was unclear if a suspect was in custody.

The violence left many in the area stunned.

Edwin Chen, a 47-year-old delivery dispatcher, rushed over from Woodland Hills to Monterey Park around 12:30 a.m. after hearing the news. Chen grew up in the area, he said, and about a dozen of his relatives and friends live there.

He said he was saddened this happened just as the community was celebrating Lunar New Year.

“This is [supposed to be] a happy time,” he said. “I want to find out as much as possible. It’s still shocking.”

“Our hearts go out to those who lost loved ones tonight in our neighboring city, Monterey Park, where a mass shooting just occurred,” Los Angeles City Controller Kenneth Mejia, the first Asian American to hold citywide office in L.A., said in a tweet.

Monterey Park, a city of 61,000 in the San Gabriel Valley, has a majority Asian American population. Located east of Los Angeles, the suburb is 65% Asian American, 27% Latino, and 6% white, according to census data.

One of the anchor suburbs in the San Gabriel Valley, Monterey Park is a hub of Asian American supermarkets and restaurants.

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News Network
January 26,2023

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Pakistan captain Babar Azam was named as winner of the ICC Men's ODI Cricketer of the Year 2022 award, winning the coveted honour for the second year in a row. He had competition from Australia's leg-spinner Adam Zampa, West Indies' opener Shai Hope and Zimbabwe's off-spin all-rounder Sikandar Raza.

Azam played only nine ODI matches in 2022, but the 28-year-old made them count as he smashed three centuries, a further five half-centuries and only really failed with the bat on one occasion.

He has been at the top of the men's ODI player rankings since July 2021, scoring 679 runs at a stunning average of 84.87 in the nine matches he played in 2022, registering eight scores of more than fifty, three of which he converted into hundreds.

Azam had a memorable year as captain of the Pakistan ODI team, winning three out of three series. Pakistan were unstoppable in the ODI format, losing just one match (against Australia) out of nine.

His best effort in ODIs this year was 114 against Australia in Lahore. Set a daunting target of 349 by Australia, Azam put on a masterclass in chasing a total. Walking out to bat when his team needed 231 from 187 balls, Babar almost took his side home with an exceptional display of shot-making.

Azam brought up his hundred off just 73 balls, his fastest ever in ODI cricket and stuck around till the 44th over. The rest of the batters finished the job as they recorded their highest-ever successful chase in ODIs, with Azam deservedly named Player of the Match.

ICC also said Richard Illingworth won the award for Umpire of the Year in 2022. Illingworth, who played nine Tests and 25 ODIs for England as a left-arm spinner from 1991-1996, had won the honour earlier in 2019 and is now a two-time ICC Umpire of the Year. 

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News Network
January 17,2023

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New Delhi, Jan 17: Prime Minister Narendra Modi had a 15-minute meeting with Karnataka's former Chief Minister BS Yediyurappa on Monday on the sidelines of the BJP national executive.

Karnataka is one of the states going to polls this year. Poll strategy for these nine states was the key agenda of the ongoing two-day executive meet in New Delhi, which is being attended by PM Modi and the key leaders and ministers of the party.

Since being removed from the top post in Karnataka - the only southern state where the BJP has made a breakthrough - Mr Yediyurappa, who has a large base of Lingayat supporters, has been keeping a low profile. But with the polls approaching, the BJP's original strongman in the south has been elevated to the parliamentary board - the party's highest decision-making body.

The meeting with PM Modi has raised speculation about a turn in fortune for the four-time Chief Minister of Karnataka.

Mr Yediyurappa's successor, Basavaraj Bommai, has been in news more for the wrong reasons than right.

Mr Bommai's tenure in the top post had looked shaky last year as the opposition heaped corruption allegations against him and started the PayCM campaign. But the party had maintained that there will be no change and the state will go to polls under his leadership.

Amit Shah, the BJP's chief strategist, has handed the Karnataka unit a "Mission 136" - winning 136 of the state's 224 seats. But it could be an uphill task in the backdrop of the Congress challenge in Karnataka, one of the few states where the party has ground-level support.

The BJP came to power in the southern state for a third time in Karnataka as the alliance government of the Congress and HD Kumaraswamy's Janata Dal Secular collapsed following an exodus by its MLAs. The ruling alliance had accused the BJP of running an Operation Lotus - - toppling an opposition government by poaching on its MLAs.

Mr Bommai and the party's state unit president Nalin Kumar Kateel also met the state general secretary in-charge Arun Singh. 

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