Chinese authorities seek out COVID protesters

STORY: This is the sound of a screaming female protester being detained and dragged away by Chinese authorities in Hangzhou, the capital of the eastern province of Zhejiang.

The arrest followed COVID curb protests which rocked the country over the weekend.

In Beijing, demonstrators say Chinese authorities have begun inquiries into people who gathered.

Two protesters told Reuters that callers identifying themselves as Beijing police asked them to report to a police station on Tuesday (November 29) with written accounts of their activities on Sunday (November 27) night.

It was not clear how authorities identified those they wanted to question, or how many such people the authorities aimed to speak to.

In Shanghai and Beijing, police were seen patrolling areas where some groups on the Telegram messaging service had suggested people gather again.

Residents also say police have been asking people passing through those areas for their phones to check if they had virtual private networks and the Telegram app.

VPNs are illegal for most people in China, while the Telegram app is blocked from China's internet.

Some have turned to dating app messaging services in the hope of evading censorship and less police scrutiny.

Beijing's Public Security Bureau did not respond to a request for comment.

A spokesperson for China's foreign ministry sai d rights and freedoms must be exercised within the framework of the law.

On Tuesday (November 29), China announced plans to speed up COVID-19 vaccinations - but did not elaborate on how.

Cheng Youquan, an official in the National Disease Control and Prevention Administration, said authorities would address urgent concerns.

"The problems reflected by the public are not mainly aimed at the prevention and control of the epidemic itself, but focused on the simplification, overzealous implementation and one-size-fits-all aspects of the prevention and control measures."

Protests in the last several days have created mainland China's biggest wave of civil disobedience since President Xi Jinping took power a decade ago.

And come as the number of COVID cases hit record daily highs and large parts of several cities face new lockdowns.

Despite the crackdown from the authorities, videos released on Tuesday show residents in Jinan trying to break out of lockdown.

And in Guangzhou, residents gathered around barricades to protest against health crisis curbs.

Bates Gill, the executive director at Center for China Analysis said the scale and the widespread nature of the protests in the last few days separate them from the other episodes of unrest in the country.

"I think makes it a much more potentially volatile, and potentially more threatening set of problems that the (Communist) party in China has to deal with.”