Chinese authorities are now grilling the people suspected of participating in the recent protests as the trend started dying down amid the police crackdown.

There are reports of a heavy police presence in several cities, as some gatherings were quelled or failed to materialise.

Last weekend’s demonstrations had grown after a fire in a high-rise block in Urumqi, western China, killed 10 people on Thursday.

It is widely believed residents could not escape the blaze because of Covid restrictions, but local authorities have disputed this.

On the other hand, prominent nationalist circles are saying that the protests were fomented by “foreign forces”.

Chinese authorities regularly warn that “foreign forces” are endangering national security and have accused them for stirring the 2019 pro-democracy Hong Kong protests.

In this connection, the Chinse social media is now being censored to stop people seeing and discussing the protests. Tens of millions of posts have been filtered from search results, while media are muting their coverage of Covid in favour of upbeat stories about the World Cup and China’s space achievements.

It’s a vastly different scene on Western social media platforms, which some Chinese people have taken to share information including advice for protesters to avoid arrest.

As far as the investigations are concerned, it is said that a caller identifying as a police officer in the Chinese capital asked the protester to show up at a police station on Tuesday to deliver a written record of their activities on Sunday night.

In another case, a student was contacted by their college and asked if they had been in the area where events took place and to provide a written account.

“We are all desperately deleting our chat history,” one Beijing protester who declined to be identified, said.

“There are just too many police. Police came to check the ID of one of my friends and then took her away. We don’t know why. A few hours later they released her.”

Simmering discontent with stringent Covid prevention policies three years into the pandemic ignited into broader protests in cities thousands of miles apart over the weekend.

Mainland China’s biggest wave of civil disobedience since President Xi Jinping took power a decade ago comes as the number of Covid-19 cases hit record daily highs and large parts of several cities face new lockdowns.

Covid has spread despite China largely isolating itself from the world and demanding significant sacrifices from its population to comply with frequent testing and prolonged isolation.

The lockdowns have exacerbated one of the sharpest slowdowns in growth China has suffered in decades, disrupting global supply chains and roiling financial markets.

On Tuesday, shares in China and elsewhere rallied on expectations the country may be on a path towards loosening restrictions, after authorities announced plans to boost the vaccination rate among the elderly.

People say police have been asking people passing through those areas for their phones to check if they had virtual private networks (VPNs) and the Telegram app, which has been used by protesters.

Students from several colleges in the Sichuan province who took part in campus memorials for the victims have been asked by their teachers who the main organiser was, said a person who attended one in Chengdu, the province’s capital.

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