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Your Monday Briefing: Covid Protests Intensify in China

Your Monday Briefing Covid Protests Intensify in China


Protests erupted in cities and college campuses across China this weekend, as public anger at the country’s draconian Covid controls spilled onto the streets.

Yesterday, hundreds of students gathered at Tsinghua University, in Beijing, where they have been largely prohibited from leaving for weeks. “Democracy and rule of law,” the crowd chanted. In Chengdu, video showed people shouting: “We want freedom, we want democracy.”

One of the biggest protests happened in Shanghai on Saturday, when a chanting crowd called for the Communist Party and its leader, Xi Jinping, to step down. The police looked on as the shouting grew before eventually dispersing the hundreds of protesters, mostly in their twenties. Some now fear an official response. Here’s a video.

The defiance followed an apartment fire in Urumqi, the regional capital of Xinjiang, where at least 10 people died and nine others were injured.

Many people think that Covid restrictions prevented the residents in the building from fleeing, or hampered rescue efforts, though the government has rejected that claim. But after nearly three years of restrictions, many Chinese have stories of being quarantined at home, occasionally with their doors wired or welded shut or emergency exits blockaded.

Shanghai: The city endured a taxing lockdown this spring. In recent days, many neighborhoods have begun ordering frequent Covid tests again — only days after announcing that they would be seldom needed.

Background: For a long time, many Chinese have accepted restrictions as a price to pay for avoiding widespread illness and deaths. But public patience has eroded as other nations have returned to something resembling normal life, partially because of access to more effective vaccines.

Politics: The outpouring has created new pressures on Xi only a month after he secured a third term as party head. Censors have moved quickly to scrub photos and video footage of the protests.

In the prelude to the World Cup, Qatar has faced an increasing barrage of criticism over its human rights record, including the authoritarian monarchy’s criminalization of homosexuality and the well-documented abuse of migrant workers.

But some Qataris see hypocrisy, prejudice and Orientalism in the condemnation, and in some international media coverage, even if they acknowledge human rights violations.

Asked by a television presenter about his impressions of the country, a French reporter replied, “There are a lot of mosques.” In a photo caption, The Times of London wrote, “The Qataris are unaccustomed to seeing women in Western dress in their country,” a sentence that was later amended.

“A lot of reporters lump in all Arab countries together,” said Justin Martin, an associate professor of journalism who has spent 10 years in Qatar. “It’s a combination of just abject ignorance and Orientalist tropes.”

Context: The torrent of reporting has been overwhelming for a country that rarely makes global news. Grabbing the world’s attention is partly why Qatari officials wanted to host the tournament. But instead of challenging stereotypes, the coverage sometimes seems to have done the opposite.

World Cup update:


Taneti Maamau, Kiribati’s president, has suspended five high-level judges — all foreigners — and elevated the attorney general to be the acting chief justice.

Maamau accused the noncitizen judges of trying to undermine the sovereignty of Kiribati, a Pacific island nation, after they either challenged the government or made rulings against it. He accused the judges of being “neocolonial” actors who were “weaponizing” Kiribati’s laws.

His word choice hits at the heart of the issue: Foreign judges are a legacy of colonialism. During colonial times, local residents were not appointed to government posts and were rarely able to earn legal qualifications. Now, there’s “a shortage of qualified citizens who are willing to take up judicial offices,” one expert said.

Context: The region is not the only one with foreign judges, but they are perhaps most widespread in the Pacific. In the nine Pacific nations that are part of the Commonwealth, the expert said, more than three-quarters of judges in the past two decades have been foreigners.

In Cambodia’s weak legal system, surrogacy exists in a gray market. The government has criminalized the practice with existing laws against human trafficking, which has imposed the heaviest cost on the surrogates themselves.

In 2012, “Gangnam Style” took over the internet.

The viral hit, with its catchy horseback dance moves, became the first-ever YouTube offering to surpass one billion views. (The music video now has some 4.6 billion and counting.) It helped pave the way for the global success of Korean pop, laying the groundwork for artists like BTS and Blackpink. And it put Gangnam, an upscale Seoul neighborhood, on the international map.

But Psy, the 45-year-old artist behind the song, is haunted by “Gangnam Style.” He has spent years trying to replicate its virality, but he hasn’t figured out the secret to its runaway success.

“What was so special about that one song?” Psy said. “I still don’t know, to this day.”

Serve these refried white beans with anything: A chile-fried egg, greens or even pork chops.

Noah Baumbach’s adaptation of Don DeLillo’s novel, “White Noise,” is an allegory of contemporary American life.





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