Protests have erupted in Wuhan, China, over the government’s strict COVID measures in a rare show of defiance, prompting U.S. Senators on Friday to warn Beijing against any violent crackdowns.
In a bipartisan letter to China’s Washington ambassador, Qin Gang, a group 42 Senators warned China that they were “closely” watching Beijing’s response to the unrest and said that any violent crackdown on the protestors would cause “extraordinary damage” to the U.S.-China relationship.
“We caution the CCP in the strongest possible terms not to once again undertake a violent crackdown on peaceful Chinese protesters who simply want more freedom,” the letter penned by Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan and Democratic Sen. Jeff Merkley said.
The letter referred to the 1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre, in which thousands of student protestors are believed to have been killed by Chinese authorities.
“If that happens, we believe there will be grave consequences for the U.S.-China relationship, causing extraordinary damage to it,” the lawmakers added.
The letter was fewer than 100 words long but was a direct warning to Beijing just weeks after President Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping met and pledged to bolster relations following years of heightened tension and growing security concerns.
But the protests across China have once again threatened that relationship after Chinese citizens took to the streets to protest Beijing’s oppressive policies.
Following the 2019 COVID outbreak in Wuhan, China erected barriers across the country as a way to keep people from leaving their neighborhoods, or even their homes, in an effort to contain the virus, according to various reports.
It is unclear whether the barriers were ever removed or to what extent, but footage verified by Reuters on Friday showed dozens of protesters in Wuhan pushing down a barrier that appeared to prevent access to other parts of the city.
Barriers were reportedly erected as a way for China to contain communities during the pandemic and to better monitor dissidents defying COVID laws.
Some cities across China have begun reducing COVID regulations following weeks of protests by reducing testing requirements and quarantine restrictions.
Reporting this week suggested that Beijing may look to ease policies nationwide by allowing mothers, elderly citizens and those with underlying conditions to quarantine at home rather than be forced to stay at government facilities.