Will Zero Covid Policy In China Lead To Civil Disobedience ?
Mass protests all over China against Zero Covid Policy, Lock Downs and Quarantine of suspected Covid patients, away from home are happening at a time when life seems to have become normal or almost usual in other countries. The Chinese Government may not be blamed totally as active cases of Covid were shooting for a long time, perhaps in the backdrop of a veil of secrecy maintained by it. Average number of daily active cases were in the range of thirty and thirty five thousands in the cities, such as, Beijing, Guangzhou, Chongqing, Urumqui and Chengdu.Earlier a surge of higher magnitude had taken place between April and June 2022 at Shanghai and during July and August in Shenzhen, Futian, Chengdu and Dalian.Therefore, highest degree of Lockdown then could have been justified.
At present ,people’s protest for more freedom has been supplemented, rather hijacked by the volatile group of students, who apart from insisting on withdrawal of Zero Covid policy and resultant Covid measures, have also begun demanding resignation of President Ji Xinping, who has been re elected to his position for the next five years.
Emerging protests are being equated with protests and demonstrations at the iconic Tiananmen Square (Gate of Heavenly Peace) in Beijing for 50 days between 15th April and 4th June,1989. Having got a taste of economic liberalisation, people in general and youth in particular were expecting both economic and political reforms in China.While protesting against widespread corruption , people also called for more democracy in the country. Determination shown appeared remarkable at that moment of history.
Initially, like at present juncture, the Government showed tolerance and merely warnings would be issued from time to time.When crowds began swelling further in Beijing and protests also spread to other parts of the country, taking repressing measures became a foregone conclusion. First martial law was declared on the orders of Deng Xiaoping, the then Supremo of the Chinese Communist Party. When the situation became explosive, Army tanks invaded the ancient Square on 3rd June,1989 killing thousands of students and people of different ages.
The official sources put the casualty figures at 241 at the end of a twenty four hour operation. Protesters were fired at ,as the authorities felt that left unchecked, incidents could lead to a Civil War. The Incident widely reported by the foreign journalists camped over there led to widespread condemnation. Sources of information on the massacre including the films made by foreign journalists were confiscated. During the current scenario, on the contrary, social media activists of China are themselves capable of spreading any message at a faster pace.
Subsequently, diplomatic and economic sanctions against China were announced by President Bush (Sr). The protest was so much talked about that it was included among the most serious public protest movements by the TIME magazine. It included the Salt Satyagraha of Mahatma Gandhi in 1930 and the Great March to Rome.
People of China are not only protesting against Covid restrictions, mass tests and Lockdowns, they are also raising voices against their shrinking income.The Omicron driven outbreak has disrupted normal lives, apart from depressing the economy considerably. The capital city too grinded to a halt at one point of time.Video footage and pictures show that some places having low infections still have to bear the brunt of a series of restrictions.
ZERO COVID POLICY
Zero Covid policy has been considered very draconian. It involves tracing and isolating every single case during Covid outbreak through strict L.D. and mass testing to cut off community transmission chains. More and more protests by men and women have become the order of the day.They have begun holding white sheets of paper along with big banners.When they see spectators at FIFA World cup matches in Qatar bereft of any mask, they seem to justify their demands more. After being patient and slow at times, the authorities are now easing restrictions not only for locals but also for foreign nationals. A view has been also expressed that the ability of the virus to cause disease was weakening and thus people are being allowed to isolate at home under certain conditions.
One Vice Premier has also reportedly confessed that the country’s battle against Covid-19 needs a new approach as the Omicron variant has become less pathogenic and more people have got vaccinated.
NEGLECT OF ELDERLY
It may be stated that despite tall claims by the Chinese Government in respect of vaccinations, their frontline workers could be covered only by July 2020 and that vaccination began for the older adults of 65 years and above(14 % of population) in April 2021. Lately, country’s National Health Commission has announced a new policy for vaccination of old persons.Such an attitude and low percentage of vaccination among the elderly is going to be a cause of profound concern.Surge in infections to them is bound to complicate matters further.
In addition, people between the ages 60 and 65(18.9% of the country’s population) still remain away from official coverage.
POOR EFFICACY OF DOMESTIC VACCINES
Also, the Government of the day shall have to admit that the local vaccines showing low efficacy need to be swiftly replaced by the vaccines manufactured and tested with a higher success rate, elsewhere. Immediate change of policy in this regard is very much called for in the name of humanity.
While some semblance of normalcy is being seen in Beijing, Tianjin, Chingquin, Shenzhen ,Hangzhou and Guangzhou due to easing of requirements in respect of access to public transport and malls, simmering anger among people is not expected to go so soon.Who knows, a Civil Disobedience movement may emerge after some time?
Though daily cases are expected to rise in new conditions, WHO has welcomed the change in the stand of the China Government.
This is not the time to flex muscles.The cat and mouse game being played by the protesters and Government must come to an end.
DEMISE OF JIANG JEMIN
To conclude, the demise of Jiang Jemin, the Chinese President from 1993 to 2003, has happened during the current phase of disturbance in mainland China.He was credited to have brought China out of a period of diplomatic isolation following Tiananmen massacre. Incidentally, not only he visited India, his tenure also witnessed the signing of two Border agreements between China and India in 1993 and 1996.
By terming the ongoing joint military exercises between India and USA as infringement of these agreements, China has lodged an official protest. But the MEA spokesman was quick to clarify that the exercises taking place in Auli in Uttarakhand have nothing to do with two agreements signed with China.