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Rare COVID Protests have Broken Out in China’s Xinjiang Region After Deadly Fire

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Rare COVID Protests have Broken Out in China's Xinjiang Region After Deadly Fire

(CTN News) – After a tragic fire sparked rage over their protracted COVID-19 lockdown as countrywide infections reached another record, rare demonstrations broke out in China’s remote western Xinjiang province, with people yelling at hazmat-suited guards.

On Friday night, videos on Chinese social media showed crowds chanting “End the lockdown!” and raising their fists as they marched along a street. Reuters confirmed that the video was released from Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang.

Videos showed individuals chanting the Chinese national song, which includes the line “Rise, those who refuse to be slaves!” as others screamed for the lockdowns to be lifted.

Many of Urumqi’s 4 million citizens, who live under among of China’s most severe lockdowns, are prohibited from leaving their homes for up to 100 days. Every day for the previous two days, the city recorded roughly 100 new cases.

There are 10 million Uyghurs in Xinjiang. The rights organizations and Western countries have long accused Beijing of mistreating the mostly Muslim ethnic minority, including forced labour in detention camps. China vehemently denies these assertions.

Ten people were killed in a high-rise building fire in Urumqi on Thursday night, which sparked demonstrations there.

Although the building’s residents were reportedly able to descend the stairs, many internet users in China believed that because the building was partially locked down, residents could not escape in time.

This belief was supported by videos of emergency crews’ efforts shared on Chinese social media.

In the early hours of Saturday, Urumqi authorities hastily convened a press conference, claiming that COVID measures had delayed escape and rescue but announcing that they would look into the matter further.

If inhabitants had known fire safety, one said, they would have been able to evacuate more quickly.

‘BLAME THE VICTIM’

According to Dali Yang, a political scientist at the University of Chicago, a “blame-the-victim” mentality would only inflame people’s resentment. He told Reuters, “Public trust will simply go lower.”

According to users on China’s Weibo site, the occurrence was a tragedy resulting from China’s emphasis on adhering to its zero-COVID policy and something that might happen to anybody.

Some bemoaned the incident’s resemblance to September’s fatal COVID quarantine bus tragedy.

The official account of the Urumqi apartment fire was questioned in an essay that went viral on WeChat on Friday. It asked, “Is there not anything we can reflect on to make some changes?”

China argues that President Xi Jinping’s famous zero-COVID policy is important to save lives and keeps the healthcare system from being overburdened.

Despite escalating public opposition and the enormous burden it is placing on the second-largest economy in the world, officials have decided to continue with it.

Despite the country’s recent adjustments, which included shortening quarantines and taking other focused actions, cases have led to widespread confusion and uncertainty in major cities, including Beijing, where many residents are confined to their homes.

China recorded 34,909 daily local cases, a low number by international standards but the third consecutive record.

As infections spread throughout many cities, lockdowns and other restrictions on travel and business were implemented widely.

Shanghai, China’s most populous city and financial center, tightened testing requirements on Saturday, requiring individuals to present a negative COVID test taken within 48 hours, down from 72 hours previously, to enter cultural establishments like museums and libraries.

Popular with runners and picnickers, Chaoyang Park in Beijing has once more closed after briefly opening.

Related CTN News:

China Central Bank Ramps up Stimulus to Aid Covid-Hit Economy

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