Rare protests have erupted in western China’s Xinjiang region after a rare fire broke out as crowds vented their anger over COVID-19 lockdowns after the deadly fire.
According to videos circulating on Chinese social media on Friday night, crowds pumped their fists in the air as they marched through the streets chanting “end the lockdown”. Reuters confirmed that the video was uploaded from Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang.
“Arise, those who refuse to be slaves.” The Chinese national anthem “Rise Up” was shown in videos of the Chinese national anthem being sung. Others shout that they want to escape the lockdowns.
China has banned Urumqi’s more than 4 million residents from leaving their homes for 100 days, putting the vast Xinjiang region under some of the country’s longest lockdowns. The city has reported about 100 new infections in the past two days.
Xinjiang is home to 10 million Uyghurs. Human rights groups and Western governments have long accused Beijing of persecuting mainly Muslim ethnic minorities, including forced labor in detention camps. China has vehemently denied such claims.
Urumqi protests erupted after a fire in a high-rise building killed 10 people on Thursday night.
Authorities said the building’s residents were able to get downstairs, but footage of emergency crews’ efforts shared on Chinese social media led many netizens to believe residents were unable to escape in time because the building was partially locked.
Officials in Urumqi held a press conference early Saturday, denying that the Covid-19 measures were impeding evacuations and rescues, but said they would investigate further. One said that residents would be able to escape faster if they had a better understanding of fire safety.
‘Blame the victim’
Dali Yang, a political scientist at the University of Chicago, said such a “blame-the-victim” attitude would anger the public. “Public confidence will be low,” he told Reuters.
Users on China’s Weibo platform described the incident as a tragedy stemming from China’s insistence that it adhere to its COVID-09 policy and that anyone can become a victim. Some lamented the similarity to the September crash of the COVID quarantine bus.
“We cannot consider making some changes,” said an essay questioning the official narrative of the Urumqi apartment fire that went viral on WeChat on Friday.
China has defended President Xi Jinping’s unsigned COVID-19 policy as necessary to save lives and prevent the health care system from being overwhelmed. Officials have vowed to keep it going despite growing public pressure and growing pressure on the world’s second-largest economy.
The country recently adjusted its measures; Despite the shortening of quarantine and other targeted steps, The outbreak has led to widespread confusion and uncertainty in major cities, including Beijing, where residents have been confined to their homes.
China recorded 34,909 daily domestic cases, low by global standards, but the rate of infection is the third highest since the outbreak spread across several cities and widespread travel and economic restrictions.
Shanghai, China’s most populous city and financial hub, on Saturday tightened testing requirements for entering cultural sites such as museums and libraries, requiring people to present a negative COVID test within 48 hours. It was down from 72 hours earlier.
Beijing’s Chaoyang Park, popular with joggers and shoppers, has closed again after briefly reopening.
Reporting by Yew Lun Tian; Edited by William Mallard.
Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.