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COVID-19

China eases COVID rules after wide protests of lockdowns

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6 minute read

By Joe Mcdonald in Beijin

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese authorities eased some anti-virus rules but affirmed their severe “zero COVID” strategy Monday after protesters demanded President Xi Jinping resign in the biggest show of opposition to the ruling Communist Party in decades.

The government made no comment on the protests or the criticism of Xi, but the decision to ease at least some of the restrictions appeared to be aimed at quelling anger. Still, analysts don’t expect the government to back down on its COVID strategy and note authorities are adept at stifling dissent.

It wasn’t clear how many people were detained since protests began Friday and spread to cities including Shanghai, the country’s financial center, and the capital, Beijing.

The city government of Beijing announced Monday it would no longer set up gates to block access to apartment compounds where infections are found. It made no mention of a deadly fire last week that set off the protests following questions about whether firefighters or victims trying to escape were blocked by locked doors or other anti-virus controls.

“Passages must remain clear for medical transportation, emergency escapes and rescues,” said a city official in charge of epidemic control, Wang Daguang, according to the official China News Service.

In addition, the southern manufacturing and trade metropolis of Guangzhou, the biggest hotspot in China’s latest wave of infections, announced some residents will no longer be required to undergo mass testing. It cited a need to conserve resources.

Urumqi, where the deadly fire occurred, and another city in the Xinjiang region in the northwest announced markets and other businesses in areas deemed at low risk of infection would reopen this week and public bus service would resume.

“Zero COVID,” which aims to isolate every infected person, has helped to keep China’s case numbers lower than those of the United States and other major countries. But it has confined millions of people to their homes for up to four months, and some have complained about a lack of reliable food and medical supplies.

The ruling party promised last month to reduce disruption by changing quarantine and other rules. But public acceptance is wearing thin after a spike in infections prompted cities to tighten controls.

On Monday, the number of new daily cases rose to 40,347, including 36,525 with no symptoms.

The ruling party newspaper People’s Daily called for its anti-virus strategy to be carried out effectively, indicating Xi’s government has no plans to change course.

“Facts have fully proved that each version of the prevention and control plan has withstood the test of practice,” a People’s Daily commentator wrote.

Protests spread to at least eight major cities. Most protesters complained about excessive restrictions, but some turned their anger at Xi, China’s most powerful leader since at least the 1980s. In a video that was verified by The Associated Press, a crowd in Shanghai on Saturday chanted, “Xi Jinping! Step down! CCP! Step down!”

Hours after police broke up the demonstration, people returned to the same spot on Sunday for another protest. Dozens of people were detained in police sweeps and driven away in police vans and buses, though the exact number was not clear.

In one sweep witnessed by an AP journalist, officers charged and tackled bystanders at an intersection near where earlier protests had taken place, even though the bystanders were not chanting or expressing dissent in any visible way.

The British Broadcasting Corp. said one of its reporters was beaten, kicked, handcuffed and detained for several hours by Shanghai police but later released.

The BBC criticized what it said was Chinese authorities’ explanation that its reporter was detained to prevent him from contracting the coronavirus from the crowd. “We do not consider this a credible explanation,” the broadcaster said in a statement.

A Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman, Zhao Lijian, said the BBC reporter failed to identify himself and “didn’t voluntarily present” his press credential.

“Foreign journalists need to consciously follow Chinese laws and regulations,” Zhao said.

Swiss broadcaster RTS said its correspondent and a cameraman were detained while doing a live broadcast but released a few minutes later. A journalist for The Associated Press was detained but later released.

Eyewitnesses told the AP about protests that took place in Guangzhou and in Chengdu in the southwest. Videos that said they were filmed in Nanjing in the east, Chongqing in the southwest and other cities showed protesters tussling with police in white protective suits or dismantling barricades used to seal off neighborhoods. AP could not verify that all those protests took place or where.

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COVID-19

Whistleblower shares his role in “Covert military operation observing UK citizens during the pandemic”

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From Dr. John Campbell

In his video presentation Monday, British Health Researcher Dr. John Campbell took a break from his daily dive into the data. Instead he highlighted a breaking news story in the UK about a secret military operation.

A former member of the “77th Brigade” told Britain’s Daily Mail he was brought in to serve on the unit during the pandemic. Although their official task was to uncover foreign interference, the whistleblower says they spent their time monitoring “our own concerned citizens” who were criticizing lockdown policies and other government responses to the pandemic.

While there may have actually been some foreign social media campaigns attempting to sway opinions in Britain, the 77th Brigade instead “compiled dossiers on public figures such as ex-Minister David Davis”, as well as journalists Peter Hitchens and Toby Young.

The information compiled by the 77th Bridage was “reported back to No 10.” The whistleblower says government ministers then pushed social media platforms to remove or downplay this information and “promote Government-approved lines.”

This is all very disconcerting for Dr. Campbell who has found some of his own posts during the pandemic have been deleted.  Campbell finds the government’s effort to thwart a healthy learning environment extremely disturbing.

Dr. John Campbell’s presentation notes with links

The 77th Brigade is part of the British Army

https://www.army.mod.uk/who-we-are/fo…

77th Brigade is an agent of change; through targeted Information Activity and Outreach we contribute to the success of military objectives

Mail on Sunday and Big Brother Watch, official government admission

Chief of the Defence Staff General Sir Nick Carter https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FRRGQ…

Up front I would say that our role has been entirely in support of the heroic health care workers on the front line, with humility being very much our watchword in how we give that support.

https://ukdefencejournal.org.uk/77th-…

Last year, Chief of the Defence Staff General Sir Nick Carter revealed that, 77th Brigade was involved in countering misinformation online relating to Coronavirus

https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2023…

The Army’s “information warfare” unit Monitored covid lockdown critics

The 77th Brigade, specialist to counter disinformation, and other online activity deemed harmful to the UK, assisted other government units Such as The Counter Disinformation Unit, was part of the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS)

The Cabinet Office’s Rapid Response Unit, launched in March 2020

Social media posts were scrutinised for accuracy

Mail on Sunday (whistleblower) It is quite obvious that our activities resulted in the monitoring of the UK population … monitoring the social media posts of ordinary, scared people These posts did not contain information that was untrue or co-ordinated – it was simply fear I developed the impression the Government were more interested in protecting the success of their policies than uncovering any potential foreign interference

A government spokesman

Online disinformation is a serious threat to the UK, which is why during the pandemic we brought together expertise from across Government to monitor disinformation about Covid. They did not target individuals or take any action that could impact anyone’s ability to discuss and debate issues freely.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/arti…

Targeted politicians and high-profile journalists

They compiled dossiers on public figures, such as ex-Minister David Davis, who questioned the modelling behind alarming death toll predictions, as well as journalists such as Peter Hitchens and Toby Young.

Their dissenting views were then reported back to No 10.

Mr Hitchens

Military operatives compiled dossiers on journalists including the Mail’s Peter Hitchens Mr Davis, (member of the Privy Council)

It’s outrageous that people questioning the Government’s policies were subject to covert surveillance

Questioned the waste of public money.

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COVID-19

Preston Manning stepping away from National Citizen’s Inquiry to focus on the Alberta Public Health review

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From the National Citizen’s Inquiry

The National Citizen’s Inquiry (NCI) – a citizen-led inquiry into Canada’s response to COVID-19 – is finalizing plans to hold hearings across the country. With two of five commissioners now in place, the inquiry has booked its first two events – in Atlantic Canada and Central Canada.

Across the country, we are seeing more and more clear signals that Canadians are not only ready to ask the hard questions about how our governments reacted to this pandemic, but also require the answers.

Nation-wide concern

Another Liberal minister has said the quiet part out loud. Former Finance Minister Bill Morneau joined his one-time colleagues Joel Lightbound, Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, Marcus Powlowski, John McKay and Yves Robillard in expressing dismay that the Trudeau Liberals used vaccine mandates as a political wedge issue, an approach that “stigmatizes and divides people” as Lightbound put it.

In fact, after two years of vaccine distribution, the state broadcaster this week also published one of its first articles chronicling widespread vaccine injuries. The article acknowledged that those suffering from adverse effects also deal with “silence” and “stigma” as a result of the overly politicized tone set by Ottawa.

In Ontario, 164 former health care workers rallied to let the public know that, while the provincial health care system buckles under immense pressure and nurses are shipped in from other parts of Canada, there are hundreds of workers that were terminated because of vaccination mandates – and to the surprise of most – they are still not permitted to resume their careers.

In Alberta, Premier Danielle Smith has commissioned a Public Health Emergencies Governance Review Panel which will “review the legislation that guided Alberta’s response to COVID-19 and recommend changes to improve the handling of future public health emergencies for Albertans.”

NCI Spokesperson

On that note, Preston Manning will be stepping away from his role as spokesperson for the NCI to chair the Alberta review. The NCI welcomes this positive initiative by Premier Smith and believes the people of Alberta will be well-served by the appointment of Mr. Manning as Chair. Taking over for Manning is acclaimed investigative journalist Trish Wood. Wood worked for 10 years on CBC’s Emmy Award-winning Fifth Estate before exposing the heartbreaking stories of Iraq War veterans in What Was Asked of Us and later pioneering the modern renaissance of true-crime storytelling. This experience has allowed her to hone the kind of unapologetic critical thinking and investigative skills that she will bring to bear in this role.

Hearing Details

Plans for the Inquiry’s in-person hearings – supplemented by virtual participation – are now being finalized. The first hearings will be in Atlantic Canada e.g. Truro/Nova Scotia, March 16,17,18 and Montreal/Quebec, 22, 23, and 24 of March.

Additionally, the Inquiry has appointed its first two commissioners. They are Bernard Massie and Ken Drysdale.

Invitations will soon be sent to government officials at all levels across the country. These individuals will be invited to provide their perspectives and reflect on the decisions that were made.

Invitations are also extended to experts in the areas of economics; health care; mental and physical wellbeing; constitutional expertise; learning; and any other area significantly affected by pandemic response at any level. The Inquiry is also welcoming non-experts with personal stories that will help illuminate any unarticulated and overlooked shortcomings in the government responses. As demonstrated in the article reference above, there are many Canadians who feel silenced and stigmatized. 

Take the example of Christian and Margarita

Immigrants from Mexico, they chose to start a life and a family here in Canada. Christian holds a PhD and was a lecturer at a prominent Canadian university. His wife was a program manager for a regional health authority.

After soberly considering their risk profile against the available data, as well as suspecting that the mRNA vaccination was incompatible with aspects of their faith, they chose to wait.

And in their situation, we see the unfortunate cascading effects of these poorly considered policies, developed in bureaucratic silos.

Christian and his wife – who worked from home, incidentally – were both put on indefinite administrative leave by their employers. Both streams of household income effectively removed.

And because of the Federal government’s policies, they were also deemed ineligible for any employment insurance.

Being immigrants, they also did not have family around them. In fact, their main community connections were from a church they attended. Unfortunately, they were also no longer allowed to attend worship services because of the imposition of the vaccine passport program by the provincial government.

At the time this happened, Christian and Margarita were also living on an island. Federal travel mandates left them effectively stranded.

In the span of a month, these highly skilled individuals – who had made Canada their new home – lost all income; were disqualified from any social assistance; lost their primary community support system; and could not even get on a plane to leave.

Now Christian and Margarita are in the process of returning to Mexico, where they have more confidence that the government will leave them in peace.

It is stories like this that will not be heard at an internal meeting between government officials and senior bureaucrats. It is stories like this that demand a citizen’s inquiry.

About the National Citizen’s Inquiry

NCI is a citizen-led and citizen-funded initiative that is completely independent from government. In early 2023, the NCI will hear from Canadians and experts and investigate governments’ COVID-19 policies in a fair and impartial manner. The NCI’s purpose is to listen, to learn, and to recommend. What went right? What went wrong? How can Canadians and our governments better react to national crises in the future in a manner that balances the interests of all members of our society?

 

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