Clashes erupted overnight from Tuesday to Wednesday between protesters and police in Guangzhou, southern China, according to witnesses and videos on social media, after several days of uprisings in the country against health restrictions.
The images show police officers dressed in white full body suits and equipped with transparent riot shields, advancing in serried ranks on a street in Haizhu district, while glass objects are projected all around them.
In the videos, geotagged by AFP, screams are heard as orange and blue barricades are knocked down on the ground.
People are also seen throwing objects at the police and then at another extract, a dozen individuals, their hands tied, seem to be arrested by the police.
A Guangzhou resident, who only gave his last name – Chen – told AFP that he saw around 100 police officers converge on the village of Houjiao, which is part of the Haizhu district, and stop at the at least three men on Tuesday evening.
China's large security system moved quickly to put an end to the historic protests that took place this weekend in several cities across the country.
Anger had erupted after nearly three years of anti-COVID restrictions, which in China involve repeated confinements and almost daily PCR tests of the population.
The trigger for this mobilization, on an unprecedented scale since the pro-democracy demonstrations of 1989, was the fire in a residential building in Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang region (north-west), which caused 10 dead.
Netizens have blamed health restrictions in the city for having prevented the rapid arrival of help, an argument brushed aside by the authorities.
The district of Haizhu in Canton, home to more than 1.8 million people, is the epicenter of a new outbreak of COVID-19 cases and has been under lockdown since late October.
Earlier in November, protesters in this neighborhood had already expressed their anger, toppling containment barriers and marching through the streets.
Videos of this protest, shared on social media on November 14 and verified by AFP, had shown hundreds of people in the streets of Haizhu, some tearing off the plastic tapes surrounding the homes of those placed in quarantine.
According to videos posted Tuesday evening on the social network Weibo, a kind of Chinese Twitter, long lines of cars were visible as residents rushed to leave the neighboring district, Tianhe.
Tuesday, Zhang Yi, a spokeswoman for the Canton Health Commission, said that “the epidemic in Tianhe District is progressing rapidly, and the risk of transmission among the population continues to increase”.
A student with ordered to leave his college dorm gave his testimony on Weibo: “I thought it would be the best time of my life… But now I get an urgent notice at 1 a.m., I'm shaking and crying in the corridor at 2 o'clock, I see my comrades fleeing with their suitcases at 3 o'clock. At 4 a.m., I sit alone on my suitcase, in tears, waiting for my parents to come.”
“At 5 a.m., I finally get into the car and escape this place that devours men. I used to say this land is welcoming, now it's like hell,” he added, speaking under the pseudonym Ludao Lizi.