Biden ‘monitoring’ China protests, says White House

WASHINGTON (AA): US President Joe Biden is “monitoring” ongoing civil unrest in China sparked by the country’s restrictive COVID-19 lockdowns, the White House said on Monday. 

Biden is “staying up on what’s going on. He’s monitoring this. We all are,” National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters.

“The president is certainly staying mindful of protest activity,” he said. “These protesters are speaking for themselves. What we are doing is making it clear that we support the right of peaceful protest.”

Protests against China’s “Zero COVID” policies began Saturday in several cities across the country, including in Shanghai where police used pepper spray to block hundreds of demonstrators who had gathered at Middle Urumqi Road at midnight, the South China Morning Post daily reported.

The protesters carried flowers, candles and signs reading “Urumqi, Nov. 24, those who died rest in peace” to remember those killed in Xinjiang’s capital city Urumqi.

At least 10 people were killed and nine others injured when a fire broke out in a residential building in Urumqi that was reportedly under a coronavirus lockdown, Xinhua News Agency reported on Friday.

Many claimed that restrictions caused by tough coronavirus measures made the fire worse and took emergency personnel three hours to extinguish the blaze.

Authorities rejected the claims, saying there were no barricades in the building and that residents were allowed to go out.