Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles 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 China⏤widespread 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.