Police patrolled streets, checked mobile phones, and called some protesters to warn them against repeating large rallies in China.
On Monday and Tuesday, police swamped the locations of weekend rallies in key cities, as millions came to express their unhappiness over the country’s zero-Covid policy and call for greater democracy and freedom in an unprecedented show of dissent against Chinese leader Xi Jinping.
The overwhelming police presence has deterred protesters, and some cities have copied monitoring practices from Xinjiang to scare weekend protestors.
At a Tuesday meeting, China’s domestic security director pledged to “actively safeguard broad social stability” in reaction to the protests.
Chen Wenqing urged law enforcement to “resolutely strike hard against infiltration and sabotage actions by enemy forces, as well as illegal and criminal acts that disrupt social order,” Xinhua reported.
Tough words may indicate a harsh crackdown. Since the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy movement, China has seen the largest wave of rallies over local issues. Some demonstrators openly called for Xi, China’s most powerful and autocratic leader in decades, to resign.
Shanghai saw two nights of Xi removal protests. The primary protest venue, Urumqi Road, has huge barricades blocking the sidewalks, making it hard for people to gather.
Ten minutes away, dozens of police patrolled the People’s Square, a vast plaza in the city center where some citizens intended to congregate with white paper and candles on Monday evening.
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A demonstrator said police blocked all but one subway station exit.
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The demonstrator spotted authorities examining passersby’s phones for virtual private networks (VPNs) that may evade China’s internet firewall or restricted apps like Twitter and Telegram, which protesters have utilized Police dogs. The demonstrator stated the mood was unsettling.
The protester said protesters moved their planned rally to another place, but by the time they arrived, security had been increased there.
“Too many police forced us to cancel,” he claimed.
On Tuesday, a viral video showed Shanghai metro cops examining passengers’ phones.
Another Shanghai protester told CNN they were among “about 80 to 110” persons arrested on Saturday night and freed 24 hours later.
The demonstrator stated the inmates had their phones confiscated on a bus to a police station, where authorities took their fingerprints and retina patterns.
The demonstrator said police told those detained they had been manipulated by “ill-intentioned people who want to create a color revolution,” citing nationwide protests on the same day.
The demonstrator said police returned their phone and camera after their release, however, they erased the photo album and WeChat.