Anti-Lockdown Protests Break Out in China's Southern Guangzhou City

Residents demand supplies of food and necessities

Anti-Lockdown Protests Break Out in China's Southern Guangzhou City
On Nov. 14, protests broke out in various subdistricts in Haizhu District of China's southern megacity Guangzhou. Protesters took to the street, tore down barricades, and confronted local officials and police. (Photo Credit: Anonymous)
Sophia Lam

Unable to bear lengthy lockdowns and lack of food, daily necessities, and timely medical treatment, large crowds of people in China’s southern commercial hub of Guangzhou took to the streets on Monday.

Video clips and online posts showed people tearing down fences and barricades and marching down the streets in the Haizhu District of Guangzhou until they were stopped by checkpoints and police.

Guangzhou had a new outbreak of COVID-19 beginning Oct. 22, reporting a total of 33,166 positive cases from Oct. 22 to Nov. 15, according to China’s financial news portal Caixin.
Haizhu District, in the south of Guangzhou, was the hardest hit area in this recent wave of the pandemic. Nearly 95 percent of the cases reported on Nov. 14 were found in Haizhu District, according to state-run media People’s Daily.
The long-time hardline lockdowns triggered an outcry among residents, and protests broke out in the urban villages of Haizhu District on the evening of Nov. 14.

Large-Scale Protests

After 8 p.m. on Nov. 14, residents began to gather in the streets in multiple subdistricts of Haizhu District to protest against the lengthy lockdowns.

“Before 9, protests started in Datang village. Many people took part in the protest. Over 1,000 residents from one community in Nanzhou Subdistrict were protesting,” a resident of Nanzhou Subdistrict told the Chinese language edition of The Epoch Times on Nov. 15.

Datang village is within the jurisdiction of the Nanzhou Subdistrict. The man used “Mr. Li” as an alias due to fears for his safety.

“We only demand a lifting of the lockdown and supply of food and daily necessities,” said Li.

“We have been locked down for over 20 days. We cannot leave our residences to get food, and we haven’t received any supplies donated by kind people. We have to pay high prices for food, but we don’t have any income during the lockdown,” Li added.

The protesting residents tore down the fencing and pushed down water barricades. They marched all the way to the exit of the village, where there were checkpoints, guards, and police, Li said.

According to Li, villagers began to negotiate with local authorities at the exit. They went back to their residences after 10 p.m. when they had promises from the local officials to provide them with supplies of food and medical treatment.

Protesters Push Against Barricades

The video footage comprises several clips that show large crowds of people walking in the street, some crashing down the barricades and some chanting "Open up, Open up!"

In a later part of the video, protesters confront police and pandemic control staffers in hazmat suits, throwing paper boxes at police and government employees. A man is heard shouting: "Police are beating people! A pregnant woman has miscarried! The government must give us an explanation, otherwise, we won't leave!" A woman is said to have had a miscarriage due to the lockdown, and the husband appeared to be beaten up by the police, as shown by the video.

When protesters in the video reach a checkpoint, an official-looking man orders them to stop. Multiple special police vehicles are seen arriving at a protesting site.

The Epoch Times wasn't able to verify the authenticity of the footage.

Besides the protest in the Nanzhou Subdistrict, migrant workers in Jianghai Subdistrict and opposite the Haizhu district government office complex also took to the street to protest, Li told The Epoch Times.

“There must have been over 10,000 people protesting [in Haizhu District],” Li said, adding that they were mostly from his hometown in China’s central Hubei Province.

Calls to the Nanzhou Subdistrict by The Epoch Times were not answered.

On Nov. 5, the district government of Haizhu announced a complete lockdown of the whole area, banning people from leaving their residences, suspending public transport, moving school education online, and prohibiting people from going back to work.
Haizhu District is in the south of Guangzhou. It administers 18 subdistricts and is home to 1.8 million residents, many of whom are migrant workers mainly from China’s central Hubei Province and its neighboring provinces.

Outbreaks in 'Urban Villages'

In the recent outbreak of COVID-19 in Haizhu District, the majority of cases were recorded in the four subdistricts of Fengyang, Jianghai, Chigang, and Nanzhou. They have large “urban villages” in their jurisdiction, and most of the residents are migrant workers from Hubei, Hunan, and rural regions of Guangdong Province.

Urban villages used to be rural outskirts of megacities such as Guangzhou. When these megacities expand to the outskirts, former farmers become urban residents after the government takes away their farming land. They build closely-packed buildings on the land reserved for them, which are leased as residential, industrial, and commercial quarters to migrant workers at lower rents than those in downtown areas of the city.

A report by Singaporean news portal Zaobao said that the Guangzhou protest was due to insufficient supplies of food, as migrant workers are not recorded in the household registration system of the local government and don't get free supplies distributed by the governments to locals.

Another resident of Haizhu District, under the pseudonym Mr. Ye, told the Chinese language edition of The Epoch Times on Nov. 15 that residents in his area also took to the street on the night of Nov. 14.

Residents wait in line to undergo PCR testing for COVID-19 at a swab collection site in Guangzhou, in China's southern Guangdong Province in August 2022. (STR/AFP via Getty Images)
Residents wait in line to undergo PCR testing for COVID-19 at a swab collection site in Guangzhou, in China's southern Guangdong Province in August 2022. (STR/AFP via Getty Images)

Ye said that he lives not far from the Haizhu District government office complex. Protesters gathered near the office of the district government to protest against the inhumane lockdown, Ye said.

“Police vehicles and ambulances came and police sirens could be heard everywhere,” he said. Ye said that many police came to the government complex to suppress the protest.

Ye also told The Epoch Times that there were over 10,000 people protesting in the district on the night of Nov. 14.

“After we protested, the municipal government of Guangzhou delivered free supplies to us. If we hadn’t protested, we wouldn’t have received the free supplies,” Ye said.

Difficulties for Migrant Workers

Migrant workers are treated unfairly in China by both governments and residents with urban household registrations, though these workers contribute significantly to urban development and the economy. Under China’s household registration system, known as “hukou” in Chinese, migrant workers don’t have urban registrations and are excluded from the social welfare systems of the cities where they work, and their children aren’t accepted in the public schools in the cities.

Locals call them “black households.”

Li complained that when they test positive for COVID-19, no one from the local government takes care of them. When migrant workers have a fever and ask government staffers for some antipyretics, they don't get any from government staffers.

"A child had a high fever and his grandparents knelt to plead for help, but the government staffers just ignored them. We protested this time for the justice of these poor people as well," Li said.

The Chinese language edition of The Epoch Times reported on Nov. 14 that a child's grandfather knelt and kowtowed to the checkpoint guards, begging them to allow them to exit to take the child to the hospital because the child had a high fever. The elderly man had kept calling the ambulance emergency number and the Nanzhou subdistrict government office, and by the evening, they had received no help. The guards didn't allow them to leave the residential compound.

Onlookers were outraged by the ignorance of the government employees and tore down all the barricades at the checkpoint.

Lockdowns Impact Businesses and Income: Residents

Li said that he is in the wholesale business of garments and has his own garment factory.

“There are a lot of daily expenses, but no income at all,” Li complained. He said that he had prepared about 300,000 garments for the Nov. 11 sale but that not a single garment had been sold in this shopping season. He has suffered huge losses, Li said.

Li has hired over a dozen workers working in the garment factory, who have all been isolated inside the workshop and cannot return to their rental residences, according to Li.

Nov. 11 is known as “Bachelors’ Day,” a Chinese unofficial holiday and also a shopping season for single people in China. The date (11/11) resembles a bare stick, which is modern Chinese slang for an unmarried man who doesn’t add “branches” to his family tree. It is a popular time for young people to shop for gifts to celebrate being single.

Li said that many people living in the same subdistrict area from Hubei Province are also in the garment industry like him. They also suffered huge losses this year as they were not able to send products to customers due to the lockdowns.

According to a report by Netease, a major online news portal in China, the Kanglu Community of Fengyang Subdistrict, which is also under the jurisdiction of the Haizhu District, has an area of less than 0.4 square miles, but it has a population of over 100,000. More than 5,200 garment manufacturing businesses and warehouses are packed within the small area.

China’s financial news outlet Caixin reported on Nov. 15 that residents of Datang village, Jianghai Subdistrict, confronted the local pandemic prevention staffers on the evening of Nov. 14 as they didn’t have income during the lockdown and the long isolation added to their anger.

Ye, also a business owner in the garment industry, said that he was under great financial and mental pressure.

“I have three [garment] factories, for which I pay over $3,000 for rent every month,” Ye said. The lockdowns forced him to halt his production and businesses, but he still has to pay rent under the lockdowns.

“I don’t earn money; I am suffering from losses every month. I have my family to support, including my parents. I have to pay for the education of my children. My wife asks me for daily spending. … I am under huge mental pressure,” Ye said, adding that he felt very depressed.

Guangdong provincial health commission reported 8,883 cases of COVID-19 in the province on Nov. 16. Of those, 8,761 were reported in Guangzhou, which is the capital city of the province. This is the highest number of cases recorded in Guangdong since the recent outbreak of the pandemic.
The Haizhu District pandemic prevention and control command issued a notice on Nov. 16, extending the lockdown time to Nov. 19, 2022.
Fang Xiao and Gu Xiaohua contributed to this report.
Related Topics