‘End the lockdown!’: Anti-Covid protests flare up in Xinjiang, Beijing after fire kills 10

    Protests against China’s restrictive Covid-19 measures continued to flare up in China after a deadly fire in Xinjiang killed ten people. Protestors claimed that the strict Covid curbs hampered the rescue operations.

    Demonstrators stand by protest signs in Shanghai on Saturday against China’s restrictive COVID measures (Photo: AP)

    By India Today Web Desk: A fire in an apartment building in northwestern China’s Xinjiang region, which killed 10 people, triggered public anger at China’s Covid policy even as Beijing faces public angst over its draconian policy to curb infection. Huge protestors gathered on Urumqi Road at midnight, bringing flowers, candles, and signs reading “Urumqi, November 24, those who died rest in peace” where police cracked down on protestors using pepper spray.

    Videos that went viral on social media showed people protesting against the anti-Covid policy in the streets of Urumqi, reported news agency Reuters. Many of the videos claimed that the strict Covid-19 measures hampered the rescue operations and the residents could not escape in time as the building was partially locked down.

    At least ten people were killed and nine others suffered injuries after a fire broke out in a residential building in the northwest region’s capital Urumqi on Thursday.

    Protestors chanted slogans ‘End the lockdown’! after a deadly fire on Thursday triggered anger over their prolonged Covid-19 lockdown. People alleged that obstacles caused by the anti-Covid measures made the fire worse and emergency workers took about three hours to douse the blaze, news agency AP reported.

    The authorities in Urumqi held a presser on Saturday to refute the allegations that Covid measures had obstructed the rescue operations, adding that there were no barricades in the building and that residents were permitted to leave.

    ALSO READ | 10 killed, 9 injured in apartment fire in China’s Xinjiang region


    China has put the vast Xinjiang region, home to 10 million Uighurs, under some of the country’s longest lockdowns. Many of Urumqi’s four million residents barred from leaving their homes for as long as 100 days.

    “The Urumqi fire got everyone in the country upset,” Sean Li, a resident in Beijing, told Reuters.

    The videos that have been circulating online show people singing China’s national anthem: ‘Rise up, those who refuse to be slaves’ and others shouted that they wanted to be released from lockdowns.

    Public anger boiled further because city officials appeared to shift responsibility for the deaths onto the apartment tower’s residents. “Some residents’ ability to rescue themselves was too weak,” Li Wensheng, head of Urumqi’s fire department, was quoted by AP as saying.

    But posts on social media told a different story. It reportedly showed many residents were locked in their homes because of Covid-19 controls.

    Urumqi police said in a Friday post on Weibo they detained a woman for ‘spreading online rumours’ relating to the number of casualties from the blaze.

    ALSO READ | Why is China imposing fresh Covid curbs?


    China, which is under strict lockdown, follows ‘zero-Covid’ strategy and it has led to massive public anger. Zero-covid policy means snap lockdowns, mass testing, lengthy quarantines, and border controls to stamp out the virus wherever it pops up.

    Even at this time, China continues to record high infections which has prompted widespread lockdowns and other curbs on movement and business. On Friday, China reported 34,909 daily local cases, up from more than 31,000 reported on Thursday.

    ALSO READ | China widens curbs as Covid tally hits record high with 31,454 cases | Pics

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