Updated Nov 15, 2022, 8:32pm EST
East Asia

Chinese residents tore down metal barriers to revolt against Guangzhou’s COVID lockdowns

Diego Mendoza is a Breaking News reporter. You can reach him at dmendoza@semafor.com. Sign up for Flagship, our daily newsletter that distills what’s happening in the world into a concise, insightful morning read.


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Videos and photos on social media showed residents in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou knocking down metal barriers, as a large crowd took to the streets in a rare revolt against the city’s latest COVID lockdown.

People protest in Guangzhou, China, in this still image obtained from a video released November 15, 2022
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At least three of Guangzhou’s districts were placed under lockdown last week as China experiences a surge of COVID cases across the country. A Guangdong province official said Monday that COVID measures would be ”enhanced,” angering residents already frustrated with the lockdown.

A large number of people began taking to the streets in retaliation. Videos uploaded to Chinese social media showed demonstrators confronting authorities, throwing items like boxes at them and tearing down metal barriers meant to seal off districts under lockdown.

Riot police appeared to be using water cannons to spray protesters attempting to climb over a barricade.


In one video, a man appeared to intervene in a confrontation between residents and police, with people demanding they be let out to buy necessities. Another video purported to show residents in skyscrapers singing and cheering in solidarity with one another.

Footage of the scenes was largely censored on Chinese social media. On Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, the only video of the protests showed a local official calming demonstrators, with the caption praising the man for his patience.

This is the latest instance of Chinese citizens openly and aggressively protesting zero-COVID measures that have caused food shortages and economic turmoil.

Some reports suggest that China is reexamining its virus containment strategies, with the city of Shijiazhuang in Hebei province becoming one of the first cities in the country to no longer require mass testing or quarantines.

COVID cases are increasing nationwide, with CNN reporting nearly 18,000 new cases as of Tuesday, the highest count since April.