Massive COVID protests erupt in China’s Xinjiang province after deadly fire

Massive COVID protests erupt in China's Xinjiang province after deadly fire
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Nov 26 (Reuters) – Rare protests erupted in China’s far western Xinjiang region as crowds shouted at hazmat-clad guards after a deadly fire sparked anger over the prolonged COVID-19 lockdown as nationwide infections set another record.

According to videos circulating on Chinese social media on Friday night, he raised his fists as he walked down a crowded street and said, “End the isolation!” chanted slogans. Reuters confirmed that the footage was broadcast from Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang.

The videos showed people in a square saying, “Those who refuse to be slaves, stand up!” It showed that he was singing China’s national anthem with his words. others shouted that they wanted to break free from isolation.

China has put the vast Xinjiang region under some of the country’s longest lockdowns, with most of Urumqi’s 4 million residents banned from leaving their homes for up to 100 days. The city has reported nearly 100 new cases in the past two days.

Xinjiang is home to 10 million people Uighurs. Human rights groups and Western governments have long accused Beijing of abuses against its predominantly Muslim ethnic minority, including forced labor in concentration camps. China vehemently denies such allegations.

Urumqi followed the protests fire In a high-rise building that killed 10 people on Thursday night.

Officials said the occupants were able to descend downstairs, but videos of the emergency teams’ efforts shared on Chinese social media have led many internet users to think that the occupants will not be able to escape in time as the building is partially locked.

Urumqi officials abruptly held a press conference in the early hours of Saturday, denying that COVID measures hindered escape and rescue, but said they would investigate further. One said residents could have escaped faster if they had a better understanding of fire safety.


Such a “blame the victim” attitude would make people even more angry, said Dali Yang, a political scientist at the University of Chicago. “Public confidence will drop further,” she told Reuters.

Users on China’s Weibo platform described the incident as a tragedy that could happen to anyone, stemming from China’s insistence on sticking to its zero-COVID policy. Some complained of its resemblance to the deadly September month. accident from a COVID quarantine bus.

An article that went viral on WeChat on Friday questioning the official narrative about the apartment fire in Urumqi, “Isn’t there something we can think about to make some changes?” said.

China advocates President Xi Jinping’s zero-COVID policy as lifesaving and necessary to prevent healthcare system overload. Officials have pledged to stick with this decision, despite the growing public backlash and the growing toll on the world’s second-largest economy.

While the country has recently changed its measures, shortening quarantines and taking other targeted steps, this, combined with rising cases, has caused widespread confusion and uncertainty in major cities, including Beijing, where many residents are locked up at home.

China recorded 34,909 local cases daily, which is low by global standards but a third consecutive record; The spread of infections across numerous cities led to widespread lockdowns and other restrictions on movement and trade.

Shanghai, China’s most populous city and financial hub, tightened testing requirements to enter cultural venues such as museums and libraries on Saturday, requiring people to show a negative COVID test taken 48 hours before 72 hours.

Popular with runners and picnickers, Chaoyang Park in Beijing has closed again shortly after reopening.

Yew Lun Tian reported; Edited by William Mallard

Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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