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China defends zero-COVID policy on eve of Communist Party congress

China's President Xi Jinping attends a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization leaders' summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, on September 15. File Photo by Kremlin Pool/UPI
China's President Xi Jinping attends a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization leaders' summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan, on September 15. File Photo by Kremlin Pool/UPI | License Photo

Oct. 15 (UPI) -- China will continue its uncompromising "zero-COVID" containment policies despite strengthening domestic opposition and slowing growth, a Communist Party spokesman said Saturday.

Beijing's "dynamic zero-COVID policy has enabled us to keep infection and case fatality rates at a very low level," said Sun Yeli, spokesperson for the 20th National Congress of the Communist Party of China, which is set to begin Sunday.

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Sun told reporters at a pre-Congress news conference that China's strict measures, which are being blamed for mounting economic problems such as its collapsing housing market, are the "most cost-effective and have worked the best for our country."

China has been able to realize "sustained and stable economic development" via the zero-COVID policy, he asserted, adding, "Looking ahead, we can see light and hope. With perseverance, we will triumph over the pandemic."

RELATED Chinese protester stages dramatic demonstration against COVID policies in Beijing

Anti-COVID policies have been tightened across China in the past week due to a sudden wave of outbreaks. The worsening situation is putting extreme pressure on the ruling Communist Party as it begins its national congress and votes to extend President Xi Jinping's rule another five years amid growing turmoil over his domestic policies.

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In a sign of the unrest, a mysterious protester staged an elaborate demonstration in the Chinese capital Thursday which assailed the zero-COVID restrictions and called for the overthrow of Xi.

The COVID policies have also been linked to stalling economic growth in China. At least 74 cities had been closed off since late August, affecting more than 313 million residents, according to estimates by CNN.

RELATED China ramps up strict COVID policies as fresh outbreak grips country

Sun, however, denied that China's long era of growth has ended.

"Needless to say the COVID pandemic and the international environment have caused downward pressure to our economy," he said.

"On the whole, the Chinese economy is doing well among the major economies, making us still an important anchor of stability and a driving force for global growth," he declared. "We will step up to keep employment stable, secure people's livelihoods and keep our economy within an appropriate range."

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