China Xinjiang: Covid shutdown protests rattle Urumqi after deadly fire

China is seeing record-high number of Covid-19 cases. (Photo: AFP)

After a fire that claimed the lives of ten people in an apartment building, it appears that social media videos in China depict new protests against Covid restrictions.

People in Urumqi have observed approaching officials, destroying a barricade, and yelling "End the Covid lockdown!"

Despite a strict zero-Covid policy, the number of infections in China has reached record heights.

On Saturday, China recorded a record number of 39,791 new cases of Covid, according to Reuters.

A little more than 3700 instances were symptomatic, while 36,082 were asymptomatic.

China reported 35,183 instances the previous day.

Authorities in Urumqi have now pledged to eliminate limitations, however, they dispute that these limits prevented people from fleeing Thursday's fire.

Since early August, restrictions have been in place in the capital of the western Xinjiang region.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, a resident told the BBC that residents of the fire-ravaged complex were generally banned from leaving their houses.

Chinese state-run media has rejected this claim. However, Urumqi officials issued an unprecedented apology late Friday, promising to discipline those who had abandoned their duties.

Friday night footage showed citizens, many of whom were wearing face masks, gathering on the city's streets after dark.

They were observed yelling, fist-pumping, and arguing with officials. The location was confirmed by the news agency Reuters.

In one film, a protester shouted through a megaphone, and in another, a mob smashed through a barrier manned by city employees wearing protective gear.

Friday night, live streams monitored by the BBC appeared to show demonstrators assembling on the steps of a city government building.

By Saturday am, the vast majority of references to the Urumqi protests had been removed from the Chinese internet due to strict censorship.

Local media reported Thursday's fatal fire at the Urumqi apartment building, which also injured nine others, was likely caused by an electrical extension malfunction.

Covid limits may have impeded firefighting efforts, according to online discussions.

City officials have refuted this, claiming that parked automobiles prevented firefighters from reaching the blazing building.

At a news conference on Saturday morning, they announced the gradual relaxation of lockdown restrictions in low-risk areas of Urumqi.

They did not mention the protests but stated that the majority of Covid cases in the community had been resolved and that "order" will be restored to the lives of city residents.

Large-scale, disruptive demonstrations were uncommon in China, but there was growing opposition to Beijing's zero-Covid plan.

On Saturday, additional protests were reported in places including Xi'an, Chongqing, and Nanjing. A significant number of them were recorded at universities.

The demonstrations have received a great deal of support on the social media website Weibo, where participants have been described as "courageous."

Others on Weibo have expressed their displeasure with the incident in Urumqi and the government's position of zero tolerance for Covid.

"The unrestricted faith we initially placed in the authorities did not alter their morality. They are deaf to the life, safety, and basic needs of the people "One author wrote the text.

The zero-Covid plan was the last of its sort among the world's major countries and was in part a response to China's relatively low immunization rates and efforts to safeguard the elderly.

Recent violent demonstrations have occurred from Zhengzhou to Guangzhou a because of sudden lockdowns and broader Covid restrictions.

Despite the strict efforts, China's case numbers this week reached all-time highs since the beginning of the pandemic.

Various Uyghurs resided in the Xinjiang region, against whom the Chinese government has been accused of committing numerous violations of human rights, which it denies.

Publish : 2022-11-27 10:26:00

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