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Red Deer – Lacombe MP Blaine Calkins rips PM as announces he will vote against Emergency Measures Act

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Video release from Blaine Calkins, Red Deer – Lacombe MP

After 15 years as a TV reporter with Global and CBC and as news director of RDTV in Red Deer, Duane set out on his own 2008 as a visual storyteller. During this period, he became fascinated with a burgeoning online world and how it could better serve local communities. This fascination led to Todayville, launched in 2016.

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Students sent home, police on patrol as China curbs protests

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By Joe Mcdonald, Dake Kang And Huizhong Wu in Beijing

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese universities sent students home and police fanned out in Beijing and Shanghai to prevent more protests Tuesday after crowds angered by severe anti-virus restrictions called for leader Xi Jinping to resign in the biggest show of public dissent in decades.

Authorities have eased some controls after demonstrations in at least eight mainland cities and Hong Kong — but maintained they would stick to a “zero-COVID” strategy that has confined millions of people to their homes for months at a time. Security forces have detained an unknown number of people and stepped up surveillance.

With police out in force, there was no word of protests Tuesday in Beijing, Shanghai or other major mainland cities that saw crowds rally over the weekend. Those were the most widespread protests since the army crushed the 1989 student-led Tiananmen Square pro-democracy movement.

In Hong Kong, about a dozen people, mostly from the mainland, protested at a university.

Beijing’s Tsinghua University, where students rallied over the weekend, and other schools in the capital and the southern province of Guangdong sent students home. The schools said they were being protected from COVID-19, but dispersing them to far-flung hometowns also reduces the likelihood of more demonstrations. Chinese leaders are wary of universities, which have been hotbeds of activism including the Tiananmen protests.

On Sunday, Tsinghua students were told they could go home early for the semester. The school, which is Xi’s alma mater, arranged buses to take them to the train station or airport.

Nine student dorms at Tsinghua were closed Monday after some students positive for COVID-19, according to one who noted the closure would make it hard for crowds to gather. The student gave only his surname, Chen, for fear of retribution from authorities.

Beijing Forestry University also said it would arrange for students to return home. It said its faculty and students all tested negative for the virus.

Universities said classes and final exams would be conducted online.

Authorities hope to “defuse the situation” by clearing out campuses, said Dali Yang, an expert on Chinese politics at the University of Chicago.

Depending on how tough a position the government takes, groups might take turns protesting, he said.

Police appeared to be trying to keep their crackdown out of sight, possibly to avoid drawing attention to the scale of the protests or encouraging others. Videos and posts on Chinese social media about protests were deleted by the ruling party’s vast online censorship apparatus.

There were no announcements about detentions, though reporters saw protesters taken away by police and social media posts said people were in custody or missing.

Police warned some detained protesters against demonstrating again.

In Shanghai, police stopped pedestrians and checked their phones Monday night, according to a witness, possibly looking for apps such as Twitter that are banned in China or images of protests. The witness, who insisted on anonymity for fear of arrest, said he was on his way to a protest but found no crowd there when he arrived.

Images viewed by The Associated Press of photos from a weekend protest showed police shoving people into cars. Some people were also swept up in police raids after demonstrations ended.

One person who lived near the site of a protest in Shanghai was detained Sunday and held until Tuesday morning, according to two friends who insisted on anonymity for fear of retribution from authorities.

In Beijing, police on Monday visited a resident who attended a protest the previous night, according to a friend who refused to be identified for fear of retaliation. He said the police questioned the resident and warned him not to go to more protests.

On Tuesday, protesters at the University of Hong Kong chanted against virus restrictions and held up sheets of paper with critical slogans. Some spectators joined in their chants.

The protesters held signs that read, “Say no to COVID panic” and “No dictatorship but democracy.”

One chanted: “We’re not foreign forces but your classmates.” Chinese authorities often try to discredit domestic critics by saying they work for foreign powers.

China’s “zero-COVID” policy has helped keep case numbers lower than those of the United States and other major countries, but global health experts have increasingly criticized the methods as unsustainable.

Beijing needs to make its approach “very targeted” to reduce economic disruption, the head of the International Monetary Fund told The Associated Press in an interview Tuesday.

“We see the importance of moving away from massive lockdowns,” IMF Managing Director Kristalina Georgieva said in Berlin. “So that targeting allows to contain the spread of COVID without significant economic costs.”

“Zero COVID” means few Chinese have been exposed to the virus. Meanwhile, elderly vaccination rates lag other countries as seniors decline the shots, and China’s domestically developed vaccines are less effective than those used abroad.

Public tolerance of the onerous restrictions has eroded as some people confined at home said they struggled to get access to food and medicine.

The Chinese Communist Party promised last month to reduce disruptions, but a spike in infections has prompted cities to tighten controls.

The protests over the weekend were sparked by anger over the deaths of at least 10 people in a fire in China’s far west last week that prompted angry questions online about whether firefighters or victims trying to escape were blocked by anti-virus controls.

Most protesters over the weekend 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!” Such direct criticism of Xi is unprecedented.

Sympathy protests were held overseas, and foreign governments have called on Beijing for restraint.

“We support the right of people everywhere to peacefully protest, to make known their views, their concerns, their frustrations,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said during a visit to Bucharest, Romania.

Meanwhile, the British government summoned China’s ambassador as a protest over the arrest and beating of a BBC cameraman in Shanghai.

Media freedom “is something very, very much at the heart of the U.K.’s belief system,” said Foreign Secretary James Cleverly.

Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Zhao Lijian disputed the British version of events. Zhao said the journalist, Edward Lawrence, failed to identify himself and accused the BBC of twisting the story.

Asked about criticism of the crackdown, Zhao defended Beijing’s anti-virus strategy and said the public’s legal rights were protected by law.

The government is trying to “provide maximum protection to people’s lives and health while minimizing the COVID impact on social and economic development,” he said.

Wang Dan, a former student leader of the 1989 demonstrations who lives in exile, said the protest “symbolizes the beginning of a new era in China … in which Chinese civil society has decided not to be silent and to confront tyranny.”

But he warned at a news conference in Taipei, Taiwan, that authorities were likely to respond with “stronger force to violently suppress protesters.” ___

Kang reported from Shanghai and Wu from Taipei, Taiwan. Associated Press writers Kanis Leung in Hong Kong, Jill Lawless in London, David McHugh in Berlin, and Ellen Knickmeyer in Bucharest, Romania, contributed.

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China lockdown protests pause as police flood city streets

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By Kanis Leung And Zen Soo in Hong Kong

HONG KONG (AP) — With police out in force, there was no word of additional protests against strict government anti-pandemic measures Tuesday in Beijing, as temperatures fell well below freezing. Shanghai, Nanjing and other cities where online calls to gather had been issued were also reportedly quiet.

Rallies against China’s unusually strict anti-virus measures spread to several cities over the weekend in the biggest show of opposition to the ruling Communist Party in decades. Authorities eased some regulations, apparently to try to quell public anger, but the government showed no sign of backing down on its larger coronavirus strategy, and analysts expect authorities to quickly silence the dissent.

In Hong Kong Monday, about 50 students from mainland China sang at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and some lit candles in a show of support for those in mainland cities who demonstrated against restrictions that have confined millions to their homes. Hiding their faces to avoid official retaliation, the students chanted, “No PCR tests but freedom!” and “Oppose dictatorship, don’t be slaves!”

The gathering and a similar one elsewhere in Hong Kong were the biggest protests there in more than a year under rules imposed to crush a pro-democracy movement in the territory, which is Chinese but has a separate legal system from the mainland.

“I’ve wanted to speak up for a long time, but I did not get the chance to,” said James Cai, a 29-year-old from Shanghai who attended a Hong Kong protest and held up a piece of white paper, a symbol of defiance against the ruling party’s pervasive censorship. ”If people in the mainland can’t tolerate it anymore, then I cannot as well.”

It wasn’t clear how many people have been detained since the protests began in the mainland Friday, sparked by anger over the deaths of 10 people in a fire in the northwestern city of Urumqi. That prompted angry questions online about whether firefighters or victims trying to escape were blocked by locked doors or other anti-virus controls. Authorities denied that, but the incident became a target for public frustration about the controls.

Without mentioning the protests, the criticism of Xi or the fire, some local authorities eased restrictions Monday.

The city government of Beijing announced it would no longer set up gates to block access to apartment compounds where infections are found.

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

Guangzhou, a manufacturing and trade center that is the biggest hot spot in China’s latest wave of infections, announced some residents will no longer be required to undergo mass testing.

The U.S. Embassy advised citizens to prepare for all eventualities and said Ambassador Nicholas Burns and other American diplomats have “regularly raised our concerns on many of these issues directly.”

“We encourage all U.S. citizens to keep a 14-day supply of medications, bottled water, and food for yourself and any members of your household,” the Embassy said in a statement Monday.

In Washington, White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby “obviously, there are people in China that — that have — have concerns about that,” referring to lockdowns.

“And they’re protesting that, and we believe they should be able to do that peacefully,” Kirby said at a Monday briefing.

Urumqi, where the 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 tolerance for the measures has flagged as people in some areas have been confined at home for up to four months and say they lack reliable access to food and medical supplies.

The ruling party promised last month to reduce disruption by changing quarantine and other rules known as the “20 Guidelines.” But a spike in infections has prompted cities to tighten controls.

On Tuesday, the number of daily cases dipped slightly to 38,421 after setting new records over recent days. Of those, 34,860 were among people who showed 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.

In Hong Kong, protesters at Chinese University put up posters that said, “Do Not Fear. Do Not Forget. Do Not Forgive,” and sang including “Do You Hear the People Sing?” from the musical “Les Miserables.” Most hid their faces behind blank white sheets of paper.

“I want to show my support,” said a 24-year-old mainland student who would identify herself only as G for fear of retaliation. “I care about things that I couldn’t get to know in the past.”

University security guards videotaped the event but there was no sign of police.

At an event in Central, a business district, about four dozen protesters held up blank sheets of paper and flowers in what they said was mourning for the fire victims in Urumqi and others who have died as a result of “zero COVID” policies.

Police cordoned off an area around protesters, who stood in small, separate groups to avoid violating pandemic rules that bar gatherings of more than 12 people. Police took identity details of participants but there were no arrests.

Hong Kong has tightened security controls and rolled back Western-style civil liberties since China launched a campaign in 2019 to crush a pro-democracy movement. The territory has its own anti-virus strategy that is separate from the mainland.

Hong Kong’s Chief Executive John Lee is a law-and-order hardliner who led the crackdown on protesters, including on university campuses.

Both the Hong Kong government and the State Council, China’s Cabinet, issued statements Monday pledging to uphold public order and the authority of the National Security Law, which gives authorities sweeping powers to charge demonstrators with crimes including sedition.

Protests also occurred over the weekend in Guangzhou near Hong Kong, Chengdu and Chongqing in the southwest, and Nanjing in the east, according to witnesses and video on social media. Guangzhou has seen earlier violent confrontations between police and residents protesting quarantines.

Most protesters have 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!”

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.

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. An AP journalist was detained but later released.

___

Associated Press writer Joe McDonald in Beijing contributed.

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