Antony Blinken says it's a "sign of weakness" for Xi Jinping to quash Chinese dissent.
He said the "massive repressive action" taken by Xi's government is not a sign of strength.
Blinken added that it's obvious that China has to find a way forward from its zero-COVID policies.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Chinese President Xi Jinping's efforts to quash dissent "a sign of weakness."
In a Wednesday appearance on MSNBC, Blinken talked about how the Chinese government has suppressed mass protests in every major city across the country.
"I think any country where you see people trying to speak out, trying to speak up to protest peacefully, to make known their frustrations, whatever the issue is — in any country where we see that happening and then we see the government take massive, massive repressive action to stop it, that's not a sign of strength," Blinken said. "It's a sign of weakness."
He added that he could not say much about whether Xi's standing within the Communist Party had changed after the protests.
"China has to figure out a way forward on dealing with COVID, a way forward that answers the health needs, but also answers the needs of the people," Blinken said. "We can't address that for them."
Blinken's comments come amid widespread protests in Chinese cities like Guangzhou, Shanghai, and the capital, Beijing, against China's zero-COVID policy. These protests mark a rare moment of mass dissatisfaction and the largest organized rallies against the Chinese government since the Tiananmen Square protest in 1989.
Police in Beijing arrested at least three people from their homes after they attended a protest in the capital on Sunday. A protester in Shanghai this week also gave an account of how he was snatched indiscriminately while peacefully protesting, then hung upside down before being bundled onto a bus.
Censorship, meanwhile, is going into overdrive in China. The Chinese police are now conducting stop-and-search checks on peoples' phones and making them delete foreign apps like Instagram and Twitter, per the Wall Street Journal and CNBC. Chinese protesters are also trying to evade the long arm of censorship on social media, resorting to Telegram and other platforms to try to spread their message of dissent against the country's anti-COVID measures.
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