Nov 26 (Reuters) – Rare protests broke out in China’s far western Xinjiang region, with crowds shouting at security guards in hazmat suits after a deadly fire fueled anger over their prolonged COVID-19 lockdown as nationwide infections hit another record.
According to videos circulating on Chinese social media on Friday night, crowds walked down the street, pumping their fists in the air and chanting “End the lockdown!” Reuters confirmed that the footage was broadcast from Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang.
In the videos, people chanted in the square, “Rise up, those who refuse to be slaves!” with his words, the singing of the national anthem of China is reflected. others shouted that they wanted to be freed from quarantines.
China has placed the vast Xinjiang region under the country’s longest siege, with many of Urumqi’s 4 million residents banned from leaving their homes for up to 100 days. The city reported nearly 100 new cases each of the past two days.
10 million people live in Xinjiang the Uyghurs. Rights groups and Western governments have long accused Beijing of abuses against the predominantly Muslim ethnic minority, including forced labor in prison camps. China categorically denies such claims.
Urumchi protests a fire In a high-rise building that killed 10 people on Thursday night.
Officials said residents of the building were able to get down, but videos of emergency crews’ efforts shared on Chinese social media led many netizens to speculate that residents were unable to escape in time because the building was partially sealed off.
Urumqi officials held a surprise press conference early Saturday morning, denying that COVID measures prevented the escape and rescue, but saying they would investigate further. One said if residents had a better understanding of fire safety, they could have escaped sooner.
‘BLAM THE VICTIM’
Dali Yang, a political scientist at the University of Chicago, says this kind of “blame the victim” attitude will only make people angrier. “Public trust will further decline,” he told Reuters.
Users on China’s Weibo platform described the incident as a tragedy stemming from China’s insistence on sticking to its zero-COVID policy and something that could happen to anyone. Some have complained about its similarity to the deadly September accident of the COVID quarantine bus.
“There is nothing we can think of to make some changes,” said an essay on Friday on WeChat questioning the official narrative about the Urumqi apartment fire.
China defends President Xi Jinping’s signature zero-COVID policy as necessary to save lives and prevent the health system from being overwhelmed. Officials have vowed to press on despite the mounting public toll and mounting damage to the world’s second-largest economy.
While the country has recently adjusted its measures, shortening quarantines and taking other targeted steps, it has led to widespread confusion and uncertainty in major cities, including Beijing, where many residents have been locked at home as cases surge.
China recorded 34,909 local daily cases, low by global standards but the third record in a row, as infections spread to multiple cities, prompting widespread lockdowns and other restrictions on movement and business.
Shanghai, China’s most populous city and financial hub, on Saturday tightened testing requirements to enter cultural sites such as museums and libraries, requiring people to present a negative COVID test within 48 hours, down from the previous 72 hours.
Beijing’s Chaoyang Park, popular with joggers and picnickers, has been closed again after briefly reopening.
Reporting by Yew Lun Tian; Edited by William Mallard
Our standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.
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