Rep. Dusty Johnson, R-S.D., told Newsmax on Thursday that President Joe Biden should "step up and laud" the Chinese people for protesting the Chinese Communist Party's "zero COVID" policy.
"What these Chinese protesters are doing is absolutely incredible," Johnson said during an appearance on Newsmax's "Wake Up America." "Protesting in America is a relatively low stakes game. You have these rights guaranteed by the First Amendment, and you're not risking your life when you take to the street.
"But in the authoritarian regime of the Chinese Communist Party under [President] Xi Jinping, people who protest are taking their lives, they are putting them at risk. It is a remarkable show of people who want freedom, who want basic human dignity and liberty, and I wish that the president would step up and laud them for these unbelievable activities."
Protests erupted across China on Sunday, triggered by an apartment building fire, as frustration grows with the communist nation's zero COVID policy, which has locked down millions as cases rise.
According to The Associated Press, demonstrations from the night before reformed in the capital of Beijing and Shanghai, as well as in other major cities.
The protests began after an apartment building fire in the northwestern city of Urumqi, in China's Xinjiang region, which killed 10 people and injured nine. Some have suggested that lockdown measures delayed first responder efforts to save the victims.
Protesters in Shanghai chanted "Xi Jinping! Step down! CCP! Step down!" early Sunday morning while standing on a road named for Urumqi, the AP reported.
Crowds returned to the street hours after being cleared by police, chanting, "We don't want PCR tests, we want freedom!"
On Monday, the White House released a cautious statement confirming the Chinese right to peaceful protest.
"We've said that zero COVID is not a policy we're pursuing here in the United States," the statement read, according to Washington Post columnist Isaac Stone Fish. "And as we've said, we think it's going to be very difficult for the People's Republic of China to be able to contain this virus through their zero COVID strategy."
"For us, we are focused on what works and that means using the public health tools like continuing to enhance vaccination rates, including boosters and making testing and treatment easily accessible," the White House continued. "We've long said everyone has the right to peacefully protest, here in the United States and around the world. This includes in the PRC."
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