Residents clash with Chinese authorities over COVID rules

BEIJING (AP) — Police in northeastern China say seven people have been arrested after a clash between residents and authorities enforcing COVID-19 quarantine restrictions.

The violence comes as China reports new cases nationwide, with 2,230 cases reported on Tuesday in the southern manufacturing and technology hub of Guangzhou.

While the numbers remain relatively low, China has relentlessly pursued its strict “zero COVID” policy of quarantines, lockdowns and daily or near-daily mandatory testing.

A press release from the police department in the Shandong city of Linyi said public security would take strict action against those who “illegally violated the legal rights of citizens’ personal protection.”

The anti-pandemic measures have sparked backlash across the country, posing a rare challenge to the ruling Communist Party. It was not immediately clear who was arrested after the fight. News of the arrests appeared on social media on Tuesday morning, but was deleted by the country’s censors before noon.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping has made “zero-COVID” a hallmark of his government, which gained momentum last month after he was granted a third five-year term in office and promoted loyalists to top posts.

These include the former party leader in Shanghai, where a draconian summer lockdown led to food shortages, clashes with authorities and severe disruptions to global supply chains that have grown dependent on Chinese manufacturing and shipping.

While the rest of the world has largely opened up, China has taken only very cautious baby steps, with its borders still largely closed and officials under great pressure to impose restrictions.

China reported its trade contracted in October as global demand weakened and virus controls weighed on domestic consumer spending. Exports fell 0.3 percent from a year earlier, down from a 5.7 percent increase in September, the customs service said Monday. Imports fell 0.7%, compared with a 0.3% increase in the previous month.

Speculation of a possible “zero COVID-19” easing rattled markets, but the government has kept its plans, including the possibility of importing foreign vaccines, a closely guarded secret.

Last week, access to the industrial zone where a factory that makes Apple’s iPhones is located was suspended for a week after infections rose in Zhengzhou and workers left the factory. Many have climbed fences and walked along highways to avoid being placed in quarantine centers where food, hygiene and privacy standards have been heavily criticized.

Apple announced on Sunday that customers will have to wait longer to get their hands on its latest iPhone models, saying that the Foxconn factory in the central Chinese city of Zhengzhou is “operating at significantly reduced capacity”.

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