China Xinjiang: COVID shutdown protesters rattle Urumqi following a fatal fire


Following the death of ten people in an apartment building fire, videos published on social media in China appear to depict new protests over COVID regulations.

People are shown attacking officials in Urumqi, knocking through a fence and yelling, “Stop the COVID lockdown!”

Despite a strict “zero-COVID” policy, infections in China have reached unprecedented highs.

Authorities in Urumqi have now vowed to lift the restrictions, although they deny that they prevented people from fleeing the fire on Thursday.

Since early August, restrictions have been in place in the city, which serves as the capital of the western Xinjiang province.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, one resident informed the reporter that those living in the fire-damaged property had been mostly stopped from leaving their houses.

Chinese state media have rejected this. However, late on Friday, Urumqi officials issued a rare apology, threatening to punish anybody who had fled their duties.

Footage circulated on Friday night showed locals, many of whom were wearing face masks, congregating on city streets after dark.

They were observed yelling, pumping their fists, and disputing with authorities. The Reuters news agency confirmed the site.

In another video, a mob breaches over a barrier policed by municipal personnel wearing protective gear, and one demonstrator yells with a megaphone.

On Friday night, live broadcasts appeared to show demonstrators assembled on the steps of a local government building.

The internet in China is strictly regulated, and references to the Urumqi protests had been entirely removed by Saturday morning.

According to local media reports, the tragic fire at the Urumqi apartment building on Thursday, which also wounded nine others, looked to have been caused by a mistake with an electrical extension.

According to online reports, COVID limitations hampered firefighting operations.

City officials have refuted this, blaming parked automobiles for preventing firemen from reaching the blazing structure.

They announced a progressive relaxation of lockdown restrictions in low-risk areas of Urumqi in a news briefing on Saturday morning.

They did not mention the protests but stated that COVID instances in the community had been cleared up and that “order” would be restored to the city’s citizens’ lives.

Large-scale, disruptive protests are uncommon in China, despite rising popular opposition to Beijing’s “zero-carbon” plan.

This is the last policy of its sort among the world’s major economies, and it is owing in part to the country’s poor vaccination rates and an effort to safeguard the elderly.

Snap lockdowns have sparked outrage across the country, while COVID restrictions in general have sparked recent violent protests ranging from Zhengzhou to Guangzhou.

Despite the strict efforts, China’s case counts this week exceeded all-time highs since the outbreak began.

Many Uyghurs live in the Xinjiang area, and the Chinese government has been accused of several human rights violations, which it denies.

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