1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Global governments urge China to respect COVID protests

November 28, 2022

The United Nations also called on Chinese authorities to respond to protests "in line with international human rights law," and refrain from arresting people simply for taking part.

Hundreds of people stage a demonstration against Xi Jinping's zero-Covid policy at Liangmaqiao district in Beijing, China
Hundreds of protesters took to the streets in Beijing over the weekend to condemn the country's strict anti-COVID measuresImage: Koki Kataoka/Yomiuri Shimbun/AP Photo/picture alliance

The US, the UK and Germany were among several countries who expressed support for protests in China over the country's zero COVID strategy.

The United Nations also reminded Chinese authorities to adhere to international human rights laws.

What have world leaders said about the protests in China?

In a DW interview, German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier said he hoped Chinese authorities would "respect" the protesters' freedom.

"We can only wonder what a burden it must be for the people of China, where measures are far stricter and longer-reaching, even today," he said. So I understand why people want to voice their impatience and grievance on the streets."

The co-leader of Germany's Green party — part of Germany's ruling coalition — meanwhile praised the protests, saying that they showed the "bravery" of many people.

"It is impressive and unusual to see that these protests are occurring and that there are these slogans," Omid Nourpour said, referring to chants directed against President Xi Jinping and the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP). "Images [of the demonstrations] testify to the bravery and despair of many people."

Protesters against COVID measures in Shanghai.
Some journalists covering the protests have reportedly been harassed by Chinese authoritiesImage: DW

Washington supports the right of people in China to peacefully protest, a US National Security Council spokesperson said on Monday.

"We've long said everyone has the right to peacefully protest, here in the United States and around the world. This includes in the PRC (People's Republic of China)," the spokesperson said.

"We think it's going to be very difficult for the People's Republic of China to be able to contain this virus through their zero COVID strategy."

British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly told Beijing to "take notice" of the protest.

"Protests against the Chinese government are rare and when they do happen I think the world should take notice, but I think the Chinese government should take notice," he said.

He added that it was "clear that the Chinese people are deeply unhappy ... about the restrictions imposed upon them."

What are the reactions to arrests so far?

The UN called on China to respect the right to peaceful protest. UN Human Rights Office spokesman Jeremy Laurence told reporters on Monday that people should not be detained for simply protesting.

"We call on the authorities to respond to protests in line with international human rights laws and standards. No one should be arbitrarily detained for peacefully expressing their opinions," he said.

The European Broadcasting Union (EBU) also condemned the "volatile" situation concerning news crews operating in China and attempting to cover the protests.

"The EBU condemns in the strongest terms the intolerable intimidation and aggression directed against EBU member journalists and production crews in China," it said in a statement.

It referred to the arrest of and physical attack on a BBC journalist covering the protests in Shanghai, as well as the "harassment" of another journalist with the Swiss broadcaster RTS while he was reporting live, among other cases.

Chinese authorities beef up police presence after protests

How German businesses in China reacted to the protests

The Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry (DIHK) meanwhile condemned the zero-COVID policy's impact on German businesses in China.

"The lockdowns that have now resumed as well as the increasingly protectionist economic policy are a major burden for German companies in China," DIHK head of foreign trade Volker Treier told the German dpa news agency in Berlin.

He added that the lockdowns have pushed several German companies to realign their supply chains and resort to networks outside the country.

He also noted Germany's dependence on China for raw material, however, which stands in the way of abandoning the Chinese market completely.

How did the protests in China start?

Protests broke out in Beijing and Shanghai over the weekend. Demonstrators condemned strict lockdown policies aimed at containing the COVID-19 pandemic.

Demonstrations spread to various cities outside of mainland China on Monday, as people showed solidarity with the protesters.

DW's Phoebe Kong also reported protests in Hong Kong in support of the nationwide demonstrations.

rmt/rt (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)