‘Global Village Today’ presents big news from different countries around the world.
Host) What news do you have today?
Reporter) Yes. Protests against the government’s strict corona quarantine policy continued for the second day in major cities such as Beijing and Shanghai, the capital of China. Voices were also calling for the resignation of President Xi Jinping. Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen resigned as party chairman after the defeat in local elections.
Host) Global Village Today, here is the first news. There were large protests all over the new Chinese city over the weekend?
Reporter) Yes. For two days on Saturday and Sunday, large-scale demonstrations protesting the government’s strict corona quarantine policy were held in various places, including the capital Beijing, the second city Shanghai, and the southern metropolis Guangzhou. Amidst this, there was also an incident in Shanghai when a reporter from the ‘BBC’ from Britain who was covering the scene was taken away by the public security and released.
Moderator) Isn’t it very unusual for protests like this to take place in China?
Reporter) Yes. The protest was sparked by a fire in an apartment building in Urumqi, Xinjiang, in northwest China. Urumqi Autonomous Region has been closed since last August due to corona quarantine. Meanwhile, on the 24th, a fire broke out in an apartment building, killing 10 people and injuring 9 others. Since then, claims that the authorities have not been able to extinguish in time due to a blockade and that more human casualties have spread quickly on social media. Starting with Urumqi the next day (26th), protests quickly spread to different areas such as Shanghai and Beijing. There were also protests at universities such as Peking University and Tsinghua University.
Moderator) China has been taking very strong corona quarantine measures for almost 3 years now, right?
Reporter) Yes. President Xi Jinping has adhered to the so-called ‘Zero-Covid’ policy of not allowing a single corona infection. Accordingly, in the event of a corona infection, ultra-high quarantine measures were taken, such as sealing off the entire region. Although there have been some signs of easing recently, this protest is interpreted as an explosion of complaints from residents who are tired of the authorities’ strong quarantine measures.
Moderator) How was the atmosphere at the site of the protest?
Reporter) Yes. Videos and photos of the protests have been posted on social media. It was quite intense. In the Urumqi region, angry citizens destroyed a simple bus stop and confronted public security, and tension reached its peak. There were also voices in Shanghai calling for the resignation of President Xi Jinping. But the majority say, “We don’t want to wear masks. I don’t want to do a corona test. We want freedom.” On the other hand, some citizens protested with blank papers without any slogans written on them.
Moderator) What does the white paper mean?
Reporter) It is read to mean resisting the censorship of the authorities. This empty protest also appeared when a large-scale protest against the National Security Act was held in Hong Kong in 2020. Currently, videos and photos uploaded to Chinese social media are deleted one by one the other. However, another video was immediately uploaded and conveyed the local situation. Chinese authorities blocked foreign social media such as YouTube and Twitter and strengthened censorship, but it spread through a ‘VPN’ virtual private network bypass access method. At the site of the protest, a number of people were caught holding mobile phones and filming videos.
Host) Have there been any physical confrontations with the police?
Reporter) Yes. Scenes of verbal abuse, physical fights, and beatings were captured in the process of police dispersing protesters everywhere. According to eyewitnesses, many people were arrested by the police. However, it is not known how many people have been arrested. Amidst this, in Shanghai, there was an incident when Ed Lawrence, a reporter with the British BBC, was arrested and released by the police yesterday (27th) while covering the location of the protest. Videos posted on social media and YouTube show several Chinese police officers roughly dragging a reporter in handcuffs. Nearby citizens shouted for his release.
Host) Is Correspondent Lawrence being released now?
Reporter) Yes. ‘BBC’ says that Lawrence was kept in police custody for several hours and that he has been released. The ‘BBC’ also complained that police officers, while in captivity, beat Lawrence with his hands and feet, saying that Lawrence was working there as a licensed journalist. The ‘Reuters’ news agency also said yesterday (27th) that its reporter was caught by the police and released after 90 minutes.
What is the Chinese government’s position on this?
Reporter) Zhao Lijian, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of China, in a regular briefing session today (28th) avoided giving specific answers to the protests or the demands of the protesters. However, the zero corona policy of the Chinese government is absolutely necessary at this time and will continue. He emphasized that China will surely win the fight against the virus with the cooperation and support of the whole people.
Moderator) Did you mention the arrest of a BBC journalist?
Reporter) Yes. Spokesman Zhao said the reporter did not reveal his identity as a reporter and did not voluntarily submit his reporter ID. He added that foreign reporters must follow Chinese laws and regulations while in China.
Host) How are you today (28th)?
Reporter) Yes. Until this morning, there were no signs of new protests in major cities such as Beijing and Shanghai. In the case of Shanghai, two-person public security is strengthening the surveillance. Police cars and motorbikes patrol the streets from time to time. ‘Reuters’ reported that some shops and cafes had been asked to close, citing local staff.
Presenter) Global Village Today, this time it’s news from Taiwan. Are there any major changes in Taiwan’s political situation?
Reporter) Yes. In the local elections held on the 25th, the ruling Democratic Progressive Party (Democratic Party) suffered a crushing defeat and the main opposition, the Nationalist Party, won a landslide victory, shaking Taiwan’s political world. President Tsai Ing-wen took responsibility for the election loss and resigned as party chairman.
Moderator) Shall we have a closer look at the election results?
Reporter) Yes. This election was an election to elect the heads of each of the 21 presuppositions and cities. The candidates presented by the “Democratic Progressive Party” led by President Tsai won only five seats. On the other hand, the main opposition party, Plaid y Popl, won 13 seats. Independent candidates won two seats, and another candidate from the opposition People’s Party won one seat. For the other one, a separate election will be held next month due to the absence of one candidate.
Moderator) Wasn’t this local election considered an interim evaluation of the current government?
Reporter) Yes. Taiwan faces a presidential election in 2024. Therefore, this election was read as an interim evaluation of President Tsai and the ruling party. However, with this tremendous loss, a rough road is expected for the Democratic Progressive Party, which aims to recreate the government in next year’s presidential election. In particular, the fact that the result of this election is the worst since the establishment of the Democratic Progressive Party in 1986 is a painful loss for the Democratic Progressive Party.
Host) What was the factor that led to the defeat of the Democratic Progressive Party?
Reporter) Major media outlets such as ‘AP’ and ‘Reuters’ referred to expert analysis and evaluated that the ‘anti-China security’ card presented by the Democratic Progressive Party was not working. In this election, the Democratic Progressive Party launched a strategy to appeal to the unity of the people against the Chinese threat. However, it is an analysis that failed due to public livelihood issues such as the corona response and the economy. It was also commented that the psychology of checking against the ruling party, which is usually seen in mid-term elections, is working.
Moderator) On the other hand, the National Party did a great job, right?
Reporter) Yes. The National Party, which lost in the last two presidential elections, is evaluated as having gained momentum to regain power in the 2024 presidential election with this victory. However, there is also an analysis that it is difficult to predict the next presidential election prematurely. The Kuomintang won a landslide victory in the local elections in 2018, but failed to prevent President Tsai from being re-elected in the presidential election. Meanwhile, in this election, the first president of Taiwan, Chiang Kai-shek, Zhang Wan-an’s great-grandson candidate won the election for mayor of Taipei, drawing attention.
President) President Tsai resigned from the post of president of the Democratic Progressive Party?
Reporter) Yes. President Tsai held a press conference on the 26th, the day after the election, and said, “I will humbly accept the results and accept the decision of the Taiwanese people,” saying that the expected results were not obtained. At the same time, he announced that he would resign from the position of chairman of the party, taking responsibility for the loss in the election.
Moderator) Did you resign as party chairman with the next presidential election in mind?
Reporter) Yes. President Tsai began his second term in office in May 2020. He cannot run again in the presidential election because he is bound by a clause that prohibits him from running for a third consecutive term. However, it appears to be a criterion to maintain order by introducing a new face to the party. On this day (26th), President Tsai urged party members to stand up again, saying there was no time to be obsessed with a sense of defeat. Tsai has also dismissed calls from some for the party leadership to resign and take responsibility for the defeat.
Moderator) Who is looking for the next leader of the party?
Reporter) Taiwanese media reported that former Legislative Chairman Yuan Su Jiaquan, Chairman of the Taiwan-Japan Relations Council, and Taoyuan Mayor Jeong Won-chan are being discussed as candidates for the Democratic Progressive Party. On the other hand, there is a story that President Tsai has chosen Kaohsiung Mayor Chen Chimai as the interim president of the Democratic Progressive Party. Attention is also focused on whether Mayor Chen Chimai will run for the next presidential election.
Moderator) Yes. Global Village Today, I will listen to this.