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Shanghai tightens lockdown despite falling COVID cases

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BEIJING (AP) — Authorities in Shanghai have again tightened anti-virus restrictions, just as the city was emerging from a month of strict lockdown due to a COVID-19 outbreak.

Notices issued in several districts said residents were ordered to stay home and are barred from receiving nonessential deliveries as part of a “quiet period” lasting at least until Wednesday. The tightened measures could be extended depending on the results of mass testing, the notices said.

“Thank you for your understanding and cooperation. Together we can lift the lockdown at an early date,” said one notice issued in the city’s Huangpu district and posted online.

It wasn’t clear what prompted the renewed tightening, with numbers of new COVID-19 cases in the city continuing to fall.

Shanghai on Monday reported 3,947 cases over the previous 24 hours, almost all of them asymptomatic, along with 11 deaths. Authorities have been gradually lifting isolation rules on the city’s 25 million residents, but the new orders appear to be returning to conditions at the early stage of the outbreak.

Shanghai originally ordered mass testing along with a limited lockdown, but extended that as case numbers rose. Thousands of residents have been forced into centralized quarantine centers for showing a positive test result or merely having been in contact with an infected person.

Two Shanghai residents reached through social media said they’d had no prior notice of the new restrictions, which they were told could last for up to a week.

“We’re unprepared,” said Zhang Chen, a researcher with a technology company. “I packed my luggage thinking it would be my turn next” to be taken to a quarantine facility.

“I don’t know what will happen in May, but after the lockdown, I think I’ll need psychological help,” Zhang said.

A marketing professional in the western Pudong district said quality of life has been declining even as living expenses continue to rise under lockdown.

“Every time, they say lockdown will be eased after a few days, but there seems to be no end,” said the woman, who asked that she be identified only by her surname, Lu, to avoid repercussions from authorities who have cracked down heavily on dissent.

“All aspects of work are affected. I don’t know when it will be time for the lockdown to come to an end,” Lu said.

In Beijing, authorities closed down the largest city district, with residents told to stay home and stores closed. Beijing has ordered daily testing of all residents, closed parks and other leisure venues and limited restaurants to takeout business only.

The usually bustling Sanlitun area crammed with restaurants, boutiques and an Apple store was all but deserted. Despite that, retiree Yang Xiaochang said Beijing appeared to be far better prepared to weather the surge than its southern cousin.

“Even though at the beginning there were some panic buying … Beijing will not be like that,” Yang said, referring to Shanghai.

Still, companies and investors worry the ruling Communist Party’s “zero-COVID” strategy that closed most businesses in Shanghai and other industrial centers is disrupting global trade and activity in autos, electronics and other industries.

China’s export growth tumbled in April as global demand weakened, adding to pressure on the world’s second-largest economy.

Exports rose 3.7% over a year earlier to $273.6 billion, down sharply from March’s 15.7% growth, customs data showed Monday. Reflecting weak Chinese demand, imports crept up 0.7% to $222.5 billion, in line with the previous month’s growth below 1%.

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Judge decides ‘Freedom Convoy’ organizer Tamara Lich stays out on bail

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OTTAWA — Tamara Lich, a key organizer of the “Freedom Convoy” protest that gridlocked Ottawa for weeks, will remain released on bail while awaiting trial, a judge ruled Wednesday.

Ontario Superior Court Justice Kevin Phillips said he made his decision because she has followed her bail conditions, her surety has supervised her well and she’s already had a “taste of jail,” which he said lowered her risk to reoffend.

The judge said he does not accept that Lich breached her release conditions by agreeing to receive an award, and added Lich can be trusted to respect the conditions of her release.

She was released in March with a long list of conditions, including a ban from all social media and an order not to “support anything related to the Freedom Convoy.”

The terms of Lich’s release were intended to prevent a similar protest from happening in the national capital, the judge said, adding the court does not seek to control people’s political views.

“The courts are not a thought police. We seek only to control conduct to the extent that certain behaviour will violate or likely lead to violation of the law,” he said.

The protest is over and has left Ottawa, he said, adding it would be “practically impossible” to mount a similar protest in the city again.

Lich’s lawyer, Lawrence Greenspon, said in an interview Wednesday that he was pleased with the decision.

“She’ll be able to conduct her life in a lot more normal fashion as a result of the judge’s ruling,” said Greenspon.

Moiz Karimjee, a Crown prosecutor, said last week that Lich violated one of her bail conditions by agreeing to accept an award for her leadership during the Ottawa protest, and should be sent back behind bars to wait for her trial.

Greenspon argued last week her bail conditions should be loosened to allow her to come to Ontario and use social media.

He told the court that the social media ban imposed on Lich was unnecessarily broad and has had a huge impact on her life while she’s been out of custody.

However, Phillips said Wednesday the ban on Lich’s access to social media is warranted.

“Social media can be a problematic feedback loop where people get egged on and caught up in group activity they would never perform on their own,” he said.

Social media “undoubtedly contributed to and even drove” Lich’s conduct related to the protest, and her separation from it is necessary to lower her risk of reoffending, said Phillips.

Noting that Lich is in her late 40s, Phillips said she should be able to remember “how to use the social skills she surely built up before the advent of the internet.”

Lich is able to communicate by many other means, including email, phone or meeting in person, he said.

Greenspon said while he would have liked to see the social media ban reversed, “the most important thing was the rejection of the Crown’s efforts to to put her back in jail for agreeing to accept an award.”

The judge did amend her release conditions to allow her to visit Ottawa.

Lich’s motivation for coming to the city cannot be disclosed because it is under a court-ordered publication ban.

Phillips reiterated the high unlikelihood that Lich could organize an event resembling the convoy protest.

While she’s permitted to come to Ottawa, Lich is not allowed to visit the downtown core so as not “to walk around the very neighbourhoods she is alleged to have traumatized,” he said, except to attend court or meet with legal counsel.

Lich and fellow protest organizer Chris Barber are jointly accused of mischief, obstructing police, counselling others to commit mischief and intimidation.

The “Freedom Convoy” protest evolved into a weeks-long demonstration that congested the streets of Ottawa in February.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 25, 2022.

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This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship.

Erika Ibrahim, The Canadian Press

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COVID-19

Jail ‘Freedom Convoy’ organizer Tamara Lich again, Crown argues in Ottawa court

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By Laura Osman in Ottawa

The Crown is accusing “Freedom Convoy” organizer Tamara Lich of breaching her bail conditions and prosecutors argue she should go back to jail until her trial.

A judge initially denied Lich bail after her arrest during the massive protest that overtook downtown Ottawa for more than three weeks in February, but she was released in March after a review of the court decision.

She appeared virtually on Thursday in Ontario Superior Court, where lawyers wrangled over how the bail hearing should proceed.

Lich and fellow protest organizer Chris Barber are jointly accused of mischief, obstructing police, counselling others to commit mischief and intimidation.

She was released with a long list of conditions, including a ban from all social media and an order not to “support anything related to the Freedom Convoy.”

The Crown says Lich has violated one of her bail conditions by agreeing to accept a “freedom award” from the Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms, a legal advocacy group that supported the protest.

The organization planned to honour her at a gala celebration for inspiring “Canadians to exercise their Charter rights and freedoms by participating actively in the democratic process,” and leading the “Freedom Convoy” protest in Ottawa.

That protest evolved into a weeks-long demonstration that gridlocked the streets of Ottawa and eventually led the federal government to invoke the Emergencies Act in an effort to dislodge the participants.

“Ms. Lich has suffered for the cause of freedom by spending 18 days unjustly jailed, and exemplifies courage, determination and perseverance,” the organization wrote in a statement on its website, which the Crown included in its notice of application.

The website said Lich would attend the award dinner in Toronto on June 16, if a review of her bail conditions would allow her to attend, as well as events in Vancouver and Calgary.

The Toronto event is expected to include a keynote address by columnist Rex Murphy.

During the protest, Keith Wilson, a Justice Centre for Constitutional Freedoms lawyer, spoke on behalf of the convoy protesters at a news conference and described Lich as a client.

“Tamara Lich ought to be detained,” the Crown’s notice of application concludes.

Meanwhile, Lich’s lawyers plan to argue that her bail conditions are too restrictive and should be reconsidered.

Her lawyer, Lawrence Greenspon, told the court Thursday that the social media ban imposed on Lich was unnecessarily broad and has had a huge impact on her life while she’s been out of custody.

He said she wishes to be in contact with her 94-year-old grandmother by social media and communicate with her friends and family.

The hearing is expected to last two days.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 19, 2022.

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