This series (#14 to 17) of Dui Hua’s Mass Incident Monitor highlights four major protests that took place across China in relation to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Wuhan, the epicenter of COVID-19, was under lockdown from January 23 to April 8. Hubei province was also under lockdown for more than one month. Other Chinese cities implemented traffic restrictions and around-the-clock “closed off management,” where residents of a community must be registered before they are allowed in or out. Many of these protests were triggered by the expansive and draconian quarantine measures put in place to contain the outbreak.
The Wuhan lockdown, which began on January 23, too late to curb the spread of COVID-19 to neighboring provinces and then to the rest of the world. In response to this fast spreading public health crisis, local governments scrambled to designate sites for makeshift quarantine centers, usually without seeking public comments. Local residents believed that the quarantine centers in the densely populated neighborhoods would pose a serious health threat to members of their community.
On January 28, residents from Xiapu County in Ningde, Fujian, clashed with police to halt the construction of a quarantine center just one kilometer from their village. Images posted online show a crowd gathering at a tunnel entrance during the daytime. Upon learning that a police vehicle was about to clear the tunnel at night, protesters used wooden chairs as roadblocks. Some even threw chairs at police officers and one of the vehicles. Online footage also shows that a police officer holding a riot shield suffered a head injury. Several protesters were taken into custody.
The county had two confirmed cases of COVID-19 on the day of the protest. The local government planned to convert a deserted factory dormitory into a quarantine center for those who had close contact with infected patients. The government announced that the incident was resolved following a public dialogue among government officials, medical experts, and protesters. Sources do not say whether any detained protesters were released after the dialogue.