The protesters were furious over the prolonged lockdown and the death of ten people due to a fire in a residential building. Social media showed people shouting at government officials during the demonstration in Uramchi.
Unprecedented protests have erupted in China’s western Xinjiang province after a building fire killed people during the Covid-19 lockdown. At least ten people were killed in the fire incident. On Friday, the protesters continued to shout at the security guards present. These protesters were also very angry because of the prolonged lockdown. According to videos circulating on Chinese social media on Friday night, crowds walking down the street chanted ‘End the lockdown!’ Raised slogans. News agency Reuters confirmed that the footage was published from Xinjiang’s capital Urumqi.
Videos show people gathered in a plaza singing China’s national anthem with its lyrics ‘Rise, you who refuse to be slaves!’ while others were shown shouting slogans for release from the lockdown.
China has imposed the country’s longest lockdown in the vast region of Xinjiang. Many of Aramchi’s 4 million residents have been barred from leaving their homes for 100 days. Around 100 new cases of corona virus were reported in the city in the last two days.
About 10 million Uyghur Muslims also live in Xinjiang. Human rights organizations and Western governments have long accused Beijing of mistreatment of the Muslim ethnic minority. The allegations also include forced labor from Uyghurs in concentration camps. China strongly rejects such claims.
Reaction to fire
Ten people were killed in a fire in a residential building in Aramchi, the second such incident in a week. According to local officials, the occupants of the building were able to go down after the fire broke out. However, videos of emergency crews’ efforts shared on Chinese social media led many netizens to speculate that residents were unable to evacuate in time because the building was partially sealed off.
In a surprise news conference early on Saturday, Uramchi officials denied that the escape and rescue had been hampered by Covid-19 measures, but assured further investigations into the matter. An official said that if the residents of the building had better understood fire safety, they could have survived.
‘Blame the victims’
Dali Yang, a political scientist at the University of Chicago, said that this kind of ‘blaming the victim’ attitude would make people angry, ‘it will only reduce public trust.’ Users of China’s social networking platform Weibo described the incident as a tragedy that stems from China’s insistence on sticking to its zero-covid policy and that could happen to anyone.
China has defended President Xi Jinping’s signature zero-covid policy as necessary to save lives and strain the health care system. Officials have vowed to continue the policy despite growing public backlash and damage to the world’s second-largest economy.
While the country recently changed its measures, shortening quarantines and taking other targeted measures, the growing number of cases has created widespread confusion and uncertainty in major cities, including Beijing, where many Residents are locked in their homes. Thirty-five thousand local cases are recorded daily in China, which is low by global standards. However, many cities are under widespread lockdown as well as restrictions on movement and business due to the spread of the infection.
Shanghai, China’s most populous city and financial hub, on Saturday tightened screening requirements to enter cultural sites such as museums and libraries. For which people need to present a negative covid test within 48 hours.