White House Criticizes China’s COVID Policy, Says People ‘Have The Right To Protest Peacefully’

The White House on Monday criticized China’s coronavirus containment strategy, saying the people there “have a right to protest peacefully,” though the comments were particularly coy at a time when it is trying to strengthen relations with Beijing.

The remarks follow the most significant demonstrations in China in decades, as over the weekend protesters in Shanghai, Beijing and elsewhere challenged police in the streets, and some even called for the resignation of Chinese President Xi Jinping.

“We have long said that everyone has the right to protest peacefully, in the United States and around the world,” said a White House National Security Council spokesman, who asked for anonymity. “This also applies to the PRC.”

The spokesperson used the abbreviation for China’s official name, the People’s Republic of China.

People chant slogans as they gather on a street in Shanghai Nov. 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 via Getty Images

The Biden administration has emphasized the need to manage the United States’ strategic relationship with China, describing this year as the United States “sole competitor with both the intent and, increasingly, the ability to re-establish the international order.” to give shape”.

Biden has spoken to China’s Xi six times since taking office, most recently in person – for the first time since both became president – at a summit in Indonesia this month.

China’s ongoing strategy of sealing off large parts of its cities and subjecting residents to rigorous testing and restrictions stands in stark contrast to the United States’ and much of the rest of the world’s handling of COVID. which have largely returned to normal while living with the pandemic.

PHOTO: U.S. President Joe Biden (R) and Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) meet on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Nusa Dua on the Indonesian holiday island of Bali, November 14, 2022.

US President Joe Biden (R) and Chinese President Xi Jinping (L) meet on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Nusa Dua on the Indonesian holiday island of Bali, November 14, 2022.

Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images

Since last winter’s Omicron wave abated, Biden has adopted a strategy that avoids large-scale lockdowns or mandatory restrictions on Americans. A significant portion of the US population has now been vaccinated against the virus and the country has increasingly prioritized economic recovery.

In September, he said in an interview that the pandemic was “over”.

PHOTO: Protesters march down a street during a rally for the victims of a deadly fire and a protest against China's harsh Covid-19 restrictions in Beijing, November 28, 2022.

Protesters march down a street during a rally for the victims of a deadly fire and a protest against China’s harsh Covid-19 restrictions in Beijing, November 28, 2022.

Noel Celis/AFP via Getty Images

Dr. Ashish Jha, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday that a better strategy would be to “build immunity in the population by getting people vaccinated,” as the United States has been doing.

The spokesperson also said it would be “very difficult” for China to contain COVID with its current strategy.

“I think it’s going to be very, very difficult for China to contain this with their zero-COVID strategy,” Jha said in an interview with ABC News’ Martha Raddatz. “I would recommend that they follow the strategy of making sure everyone is vaccinated, especially their elderly. I think that’s the way out of this virus. Lockdown and zero COVID will be very hard to sustain.”

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