Your Friday Briefing: China’s Campaign Against ‘Zero-Covid’ Protesters

The protests in Beijing began as a vigil for people who died in an apartment fire in Xinjiang, in western China.Credit…Thomas Peter/Reuters

China’s intimidation campaign

China has arrested, detained and interrogated people who joined in the demonstrations against the government’s “Zero-Covid” restrictions last month. The Communist Party seems determined to warn off anyone who may have been emboldened by the protests, which led to Beijing’s decision to abandon the restrictions.

Four young women, who are friends, are some of the first people known to have been arrested after they took part in protests in Beijing. “At the scene, we respected public order, we didn’t provoke any conflicts with the police,” Cao Zhixin, a 26-year-old editor, said in a video that she recorded in case she went missing. “So why do you still have to secretly take us away?” 

People close to the young women told my colleagues that the police had asked them about their use of Telegram, a messaging platform blocked in China. Authorities also inquired about their involvement in feminist activities, such as in a book club where they read feminist works.

The authorities’ primary motivation is probably not to suppress these women in particular. Instead, precisely because they were not prominent organizers, their cases are a more general warning to others who might have drawn inspiration from the protests.

A possible jail sentence: The police have accused the women of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” people familiar with the cases said — a vague crime that the authorities often charge their critics with in order to silence them. It is punishable by up to five years’ imprisonment.

Russia targeted Ukraine’s energy infrastructure, as it has for months. Credit…Brendan Hoffman for The New York Times

Russian missiles hit Ukraine

At least 11 people were killed in a wave of Russian missile strikes across Ukraine, according to Ukrainian officials. The Russian attacks came a day after Germany and the U.S. pledged to send tanks to help Ukrainian forces in the war.

The announcement of tank shipments is a significant step up in Western military support. But experts predict it might take a couple of months for the coveted German-made Leopard 2 tanks to arrive, just as ground offensives from both sides could be underway. Already, Ukraine is pressing for the next weapons on its wish list: fighter jets. 

“Missiles again over Ukraine,” a Ukrainian lawmaker posted on Twitter. “We need F16,” referring to the U.S.-made F-16 fighter jet. U.S. officials have said that F-16s are complicated aircraft that take months to learn how to use. But they used similar arguments about Abrams tanks before President Biden’s decision to send them to Ukraine.

Understand the Situation in China

The Chinese government cast aside its restrictive “zero Covid” policy, which had set off mass protests that were a rare challenge to Communist Party leadership.

  • Rapid Spread: Since China abandoned its strict Covid rules, the intensity and magnitude of the country’s outbreak has remained largely a mystery. But a picture is emerging of the virus spreading like wildfire.
  • A Tense Lunar New Year: For millions of holiday travelers, the joy of finally seeing far-flung loved ones without the risk of getting caught in a lockdown is laced with anxiety.
  • Digital Finger-Pointing: The Communist Party’s efforts to limit discord over its sudden “zero Covid” pivot are being challenged with increasing rancor on the internet.
  • Economic Challenges: Years of Covid lockdowns took a brutal toll on Chinese businesses. Now, the rapid spread of the virus after a chaotic reopening has deprived them of workers and customers.

In the region: The war has raised the influence of Central and Eastern European countries with negative views of Russia. Vocal pressure from these countries was crucial to the decisions on supplying tanks this week, Steven Erlanger, our chief diplomatic correspondent in Europe, writes in an analysis. 

“Today marks a new era where our women cricketers will get the platform they deserve,” Harmanpreet Kaur, a star crickter, wrote on Twitter. Credit…Punit Paranjpe/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

A milestone for women’s cricket

Local investors in India this week bought five teams in a new women’s cricket league for a combined price of more than $570 million, one of the biggest one-day financial injections in the history of women’s sports.

The numbers were remarkable even in India, which is familiar with jaw-dropping valuations for cricket teams. The country is the sport’s richest market, and its top men’s competition — the Indian Premier League — generates annual broadcast revenues on par with those of the N.F.L. ($10 billion) and England’s Premier League ($6.9 billion).

The new Women’s Premier League is designed to be a sister version of the I.P.L. In a sign of its lucrative potential, an Indian media company has paid $116 million for the domestic TV and digital rights over five years. That makes the W.P.L. the world’s second-most valuable women’s sports league, behind only the W.N.B.A., according to an analyst at a media research firm.

What’s next: The monthlong competition will happen in March. Top women’s cricketers can expect salaries to reach new highs when teams stock their rosters next month. 


Asia Pacific

North Korea said the lockdown was to fight the “world health crisis.”Credit…Kim Won Jin/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
  • North Korea imposed a five-day lockdown in Pyongyang to fight a “recurrent flu.” The government did not mention Covid-19.

  • At the Australian Open women’s singles final tomorrow, two powerful players from Eastern Europe, Elena Rybakina and Aryna Sabalenka, will compete.

  • TikTok, a Chinese-owned app, has started lobbying more aggressively in Washington, swarming the offices of lawmakers who have introduced bills to ban it.

Around the World

Last year was the deadliest year since the U.N. began tracking in 2005: At least 166 Palestinians were killed in the West Bank and East Jerusalem.Credit…Raneen Sawafta/Reuters
  • Nine Palestinians died in an Israeli raid on the occupied West Bank City of Jenin. So far this year, 30 Palestinians have been killed in the West Bank.

  • Around 200 children, mostly Albanian teenagers who sought asylum in the U.K., are missing. Some believe they have been abducted by gangs.

  • Meta said it would reinstate Donald Trump’s accounts on Instagram and Facebook. 

  • Five police officers in Memphis were arrested and charged with murder after a young Black man, Tyre Nichols, died after a traffic stop.

  • Turkey’s government is spending billions of dollars as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan tries to soften the blow of hyperinflation ahead of elections in May.

The Economy

  • The U.S. economy grew at an annual rate of 2.9 percent last quarter, a sign of a resilient rebound.

  • IBM said it would lay off 3,900 employees, as tech job cuts continue.

  • People are trying to bring eggs from Mexico into the U.S., where prices have surged.

The Week in Culture

  • U.S. senators attacked the parent company of Ticketmaster, calling it a monopoly and criticizing it for its botched ticket sales to Taylor Swift’s tour.

  • The U.S. has returned $20 million worth of looted art, including a marble head of Athena, dated circa 200 B.C., to Italy.

  • The show “Rick and Morty” severed ties with its lead voice actor and co-creator, who faces felony domestic abuse charges.

  • The Splash Mountain ride at Walt Disney World has closed. Superfans are selling what they say is its water.

A Morning Read

This blast tunnel was designed to absorb energy from a bomb dropped on Ottawa.Credit…Ian Austen/The New York Times

A nuclear fallout shelter that Canada built during the Cold War for its top government officials opened as a museum in the late 1990s. Now, as Russia reminds the world of its atomic weapons, tourists are flocking to visit the decommissioned bunker.

“That fear is still very real for people,” the museum’s executive director said. “It seems to have come back into the public psyche.”

Lives lived: Eileen Yin-Fei Lo taught Americans to cook traditional Chinese food. She died at 85.


Credit…Illustration by Najeebah Al-Ghadban; Searchlight Pictures (Chloé Zhao); Murray Close/Lionsgate (“The Hunger Games”); Lucasfilm/Disney (“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker”); Todd Wawrychuk/A.M.P.A.S. via Getty Images (Academy award)

Women and the movie world

Last year, the top 20 box office earners in the U.S. were directed by men and very few female filmmakers were nominated for major awards. Still, my colleague Manohla Dargis is optimistic about women in movies for the first time ever.

What is striking about 2022, she writes, is the number of movies headlined and directed by women that made an impact, culturally and economically. Also, a shift in consciousness has brought feminist concerns into the mainstream.

Women-led movies are no longer an aberration at the box office. Women are directing and starring in more diverse types of films. They’re bringing the representational fight to the screen, from the Oscars leader “Everything Everywhere All at Once,” to “The Woman King,” which opened at No. 1 in September.

“We are experiencing a sea change with women and movies,” Manohla writes. “It’s made my job as a critic more exciting.”


What to Cook

Credit…Kelly Marshall for The New York Times

For a weekend project, make kouign-amann.

Where to Go

With new museums and neighborhoods, Oslo is changing, but the Norwegian capital still celebrates the outdoors.

What to Watch

In “Nostalgia,” a man who left Naples as a teenager returns after 40 years and is confronted with his misspent youth and his past crimes. 


You’re never too old for yoga.

Now Time to Play

Play the Mini Crossword, and a clue: Chimney grime (four letters).

Here are the Wordle and the Spelling Bee.

You can find all our puzzles here.

That’s it for today’s briefing. I’ll be back Monday. — Amelia

P.S. Our Virus Briefing newsletter, which guided readers through the pandemic, published its final edition this week.

“The Daily” is about childhood obesity.

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