On Friday, in what is being seen as the first signs of unrest in the Wuhan Province of China, dozens of small shop owners staged a protest outside the city’s largest mall demanding a cut in the rent. The lockdown in Wuhan that was imposed on the 23rd of January was lifted recently.
Wuhan, the first city to report the outbreak of the novel coronavirus, is the worst-hit region in the country. Even though the lockdown has been lifted and Wuhan hasn’t reported any new cases in over two weeks, the economic impact that was hiding behind the social impact has now come to the foreground. The shop owners, on Friday, sat at a distance from each other in front of Grand Ocean Departmental Store wearing masks and holding placards. One of the placards read – ‘Can’t survive.’
A day earlier, there were chants of ‘Exempt rent for a year or refund the lease’. The videos exhibiting the same were taken down from the internet by the government. Since the lockdown, there hasn’t been any business for the shop owners and even now, after the lockdown is restricted in Wuhan, there is little business traffic as lockdown continues to prevail in other provinces. A protestor at the site alleged that that government isn’t paying attention to their outcries and also accused the police of assaulting protestors.
China continues to strike down dissent
The demonstration in Wuhan is a small sign of what is yet to come for President Xi Jinping. The massive hurdle ahead of the Chinese government is to ensure people resume jobs and simultaneously prevent the outbreak of a second wave. The COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan has seen a steep decrease in investment to the city as its economy has been pushed to a low. There is also a threat of maintaining relations with the United States, their major export market, after President Trump’s repeated claims of ‘Chinese virus.’
Before the protest in Wuhan, a violent clash along the border of surrounding Hubei province broke out with the neighboring Jianxi province over reasons unknown. The videos of the incidents were also taken down by the officials. In its recovery phase, China has made sure to strengthen security by striking down every form of dissent. Earlier this week, business tycoon Ren Zhiqiang was placed under house arrest as an essay attributing to his name went viral which criticized the government’s response to the pandemic.