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  • There's a crackdown taking place in China.

  • Police are being deployed in many cities because, at the weekend, widespread protests erupted over strict COVID rules.

  • I think we should go back to normal; we should go back to normal lives.

  • That was in Beijing.

  • This footage is Shanghai.

  • It was filmed by the BBC's Edward Lawrence, who later was beaten by police and held for several hours.

  • There were also protests in Chengdu, Xi'an, Wuhan, and Urumqi, where the first protest was seen.

  • And there have been rare calls for the president to stand down.

  • These protesters are saying: "Down with the Chinese Communist Party; down with Xi Jinping."

  • Now, localized protests aren't uncommon in Chinawidespread ones are.

  • But, as the world has opened up after the pandemic, mass testing, quarantines, and lockdowns are all still used in China.

  • And when 10 people died in a fire in Urumqi last week, some said lockdown rules had slowed the response.

  • Not that the government accepts this.

  • Forces with ulterior motives have used social media to link the fire to the zero-COVID policy, but the local government has combated these rumors and smears.

  • The Chinese state is certainly seeking to exert control online.

  • The social media platform Weibo has removed nearly all footage of the protests.

  • The authorities also want to stop the footage ever getting online.

  • This video, also from the BBC's Edward Lawrence, shows a woman being forced to delete photos.

  • We're getting reports of police using cellphone data, for example, to track people who are at protests.

  • We're starting to see them use that system to exercise control.

  • The surveillance and censorship doesn't stop there.

  • White pieces of paper have become a symbol of the protests, and online searches for them are being restricted.

  • And while the government restricts the protesters, its allies are getting their message out.

  • Nationalist accounts on Weibo are speculating that the discontent is being instigated by foreign forces.

  • There's no publicly available evidence of that.

  • There is no evidence that COVID is spreading.

  • Zero-COVID has kept numbers low in China.

  • But, as you can see, they're rising now.

  • And on zero-COVID, there's no end in sight.

  • This seems to be indefinite, and that sense of no hope and hopelessness is what's driving the current protest.

  • The government censors appear mindful of this.

  • Chinese state media is not mentioning the protests.

  • And on coverage of the World Cup, as the BBC Steven McDonald notes, is being edited so Chinese viewers don't see thousands of fans without masks.

  • Zero-COVID has meant the Chinese state constraining the virus and its people.

  • And as COVID spreads and protestors call for change, the government continues its efforts to control both.

There's a crackdown taking place in China.

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