U.S. government does not believe protests in China are widespread or organized enough to truly spread across the country, according to a Wednesday report.
A U.S. government communication obtained by Politico describes the protests as disorganized and leaderless, indicating they would more than likely fizzle out. The information, dated Tuesday, came just days before Chinese leader Xi Jinping ordered police to crack down on the protesters, sending swarms of officers to protest sites.
The communication offers insight into the White House’s lackluster reaction to the protests. President Biden faced heavy criticism for saying simply that the U.S. supports the protesters’ right to peacefully demonstrate.
“Why is it so hard for this administration to support freedom? Pure cowardice,” Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, wrote after White House officials declined to criticize Xi.
CHINA REPORTS RECORD NUMBER OF NEW DAILY CORONAVIRUS CASES IN BEIJING, OTHER CITIES
A person holds a banner during a protest in solidarity over the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) restrictions in mainland China, during a commemoration of the victims of a fire in Urumqi outside the Chinese consulate in Toronto, Ontario, Canada November 29, 2022. REUTERS/Chris Helgren
( REUTERS/Chris Helgren)
Chinese police officers block off access to a site where protesters had gathered in Shanghai on Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022.
CHINESE RESIDENTS CELEBRATE DECREASE IN COVID RESTRICTIONS
Protests against Xi’s “zero-COVID” policies boiled over this weekend after an apartment fire in Xinjiang killed at least 10 people. Reports suggested many of those killed were unable to leave their apartments due to lockdown measures, which have sometimes seen authorities welding doors shut.
Thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in nearly a dozen cities to call for an end to lockdowns. Some protesters went so far as to chant that Xi and the Chinese Communist Party need to “step down.”
The protests often reference China’s efforts to quash dissent, with demonstrators holding up blank pieces of paper to symbolize their inability to speak freely.
A man is arrested while people gathering on a street in Shanghai on November 27, 2022, where protests against China’s zero-Covid policy took place the night before following a deadly fire in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang region.
(Hector RETAMAL / AFP) (Photo by HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP via Getty Images)
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Officers reportedly used pepper spray to disperse an initial rally in Shanghai but soon began making arrests when protesters returned. Authorities filled a bus with those they arrested, according to the Toronto Sun.