Chinese artist Ai Weiwei says COVID protests won't shake government

Chinese artist Ai Weiwei says COVID protests won’t shake government

  • Ai Weiwei says protests should not continue
  • Police will use force to silence protesters
  • The movement lacks organization and leadership

MONTEMOR-O-NOVO, Portugal, November 28 (Reuters) – From his Portuguese home, Ai Weiwei, the high-profile Chinese dissident whose art has often criticized Beijing’s policies, said the recent wave of protests did not would not shake Xi Jinping’s government because the police would simply silence them.

Protesters have taken to the streets of Shanghai, Beijing and other cities in recent days to demonstrate against COVID-19 measures and restrictions on freedom, a show of civil disobedience not seen since leader Xi took over. power.

Nearly three years into the pandemic, China says its policies are not aimed at having zero cases at all times, but aim to take action “dynamically” when cases emerge.

Sitting in his garden, Ai said the protests were unlikely to continue, not only because security forces would stifle those who spoke out, but also because the protesters themselves lacked organization and leadership.

“There is no clear political agenda, so it is very easy to stop them and move on,” Ai told Reuters on Monday, adding that there were more “demands” in 1989 when of a bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in and around Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.

“Even if something happens (at) the scale of Hong Kong or 1989, it will (still) not shake the government,” he added.

Asked who could lead the protest movement, Ai, who spent 81 days in detention in China in 2011, said no one could because the country has no “political environment”.

“For 70 years they have cleaned up every person, intellectual or media that can raise any issue.”

Although Ai said the protests were unlikely to have an impact on the government, he said China’s ruling Community Party was “very concerned about revolutions” and would do “everything to prevent this from happening.” from happening”, from internet censorship to the use of police forces.

The protests in China were sparked by a fire in the Xinjiang region last week that killed 10 people trapped in their apartments. Protesters said the lockdown measures were partly to blame, although officials denied it.

The protests have spread to various cities around the world in a show of solidarity. On Monday evening, dozens of protesters gathered in Hong Kong’s central business district, the scene of anti-government protests in 2019.

A spokesperson for China’s Foreign Ministry said in a regular briefing on Monday that China was not aware of any overseas protests calling for an end to its COVID policy.

The United States and other Western countries have supported people’s right to peaceful protest in China, but Ai has singled them out for prioritizing their own economic agenda over human rights.

“When dealing with China, I think (for) every government the priority is to…gain some economic leverage,” he said. “You can’t blame them because they also want to survive, but by doing that they lose their credibility in standing up for the free world or standing up for democracy.

“That’s a shame.”

Reporting by Catarina Demony; Editing by Lisa Shumaker

Our standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Catarina Demon

Thomson Reuters

Multimedia correspondent based in Portugal for reports on politics, economy, environment and daily news. Previous experience in local journalism in the UK, co-founded a project telling the stories of Portuguese speakers living in London and edited a youth-led news site.

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