Chinese authorities ease COVID-19 restrictions in some neighborhoods after protests
Chinese authorities have loosened COVID-19 restrictions in some neighborhoods in the Xinjiang region after major protests.
Residents made it clear they were fed up with the strict “zero-Covid” policies the authorities have enforced through massive protests in the area. An Urumqi city official promised to open the city’s low-risk areas the next morning.
City authorities eased restrictions on Saturday morning, allowing residents to move more freely, but many other neighborhoods remain locked down.
Officials also triumphantly declared on Saturday that they had essentially reached “zero-social COVID,” meaning there was no more community spread and that new infections were only being detected in people already under health control, such as those in ‘a centralized quarantine center.
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Late-night demonstrations saw protesters tear down barriers and chant in the streets demanding an end to the overreactive measures. Public anger peaked after a fire at an apartment complex killed 10 residents according to the official death toll.
The government has doubled down on its policy even as it loosens some measures, such as shortening quarantine times. The central government has repeatedly said it will adhere to “zero COVID”, but public opinion has shifted on the issue.
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Videos from across China show protests against neighborhood closures, as well as workplace restrictions and dangerous health practices.
In a video released by Disclose.TV, hundreds of people in Guangzhou were shown marching down the street, pushing aside barriers and singing. Chinese agents have also been caught on video beating protesters.
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And at tech maker Foxconn’s flagship iPhone factory in Zhengzhou, workers smashed windows and surveillance cameras as they attacked the company for delaying payments and forcing COVID-positive workers to live with uninfected people.
The people of Urumqi marched largely peacefully in large puffy winter jackets in the cold winter night.
Videos of the protests showed people holding the Chinese flag and shouting “Open, open”. They spread quickly on Chinese social media despite heavy censorship.
In some scenes, people shouted and pushed past rows of men in white full-body hazmat suits worn by local government workers and pandemic prevention volunteers, according to the videos.
Support for “zero COVID” has surged in recent months as the tragedies sparked public anger. Last week, the government of the city of Zhengzhou in the central province of Henan apologized for the death of a 4-month-old baby.
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The boy died after a delay in receiving medical attention while suffering from vomiting and diarrhea in quarantine at a hotel in Zhengzhou.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.