Anger over China's zero-Covid policy sparked by a deadly fire in Xinjiangtext_fields
Beijing: An outcry against China's zero-Covid policy has been sparked by a tragic fire in the country's northwest Xinjiang region, as Beijing battles public apathy for its strict approach to coronavirus containment.
According to state news agency Xinhua, the inferno that tore through a residential structure in the regional capital of Urumqi on Thursday night resulted in ten fatalities and nine injuries, AFP reported.
Since Friday, online articles have been making the rounds on both Chinese and foreign social media platforms, alleging that prolonged Covid lockdowns in the city complicated rescue efforts.
Videos purported to show large numbers of people demonstrating against the policies on the streets of Urumqi.
The protest follows sporadic demonstrations in other locations and takes place against a backdrop of growing public dissatisfaction about the government's zero-tolerance policy toward Covid.
The only other big economy still committed to a zero-Covid strategy is China, where authorities use widespread testing, extended quarantines, and sudden lockdowns to snuff out outbreaks as they happen.
Hundreds of protesters can be seen gathered outside the Urumqi municipal government buildings at night, chanting "Lift lockdowns," in the video that has been partially verified by AFP.
In a different video, scores of protesters can be seen walking through an east-side neighbourhood while yelling the same slogan before engaging a group of officials wearing hazmat suits and loudly reprimanding security guards.
By geolocating nearby locations, AFP journalists were able to confirm the recordings, but they were unable to pinpoint the exact time the protests took place.
On Friday, accusations that parked electric vehicles left without power during prolonged lockdowns prevented fire engines from entering a tiny road leading to the blazing structure sparked a surge of rage on the social media site Weibo.
"I'm also the one throwing myself off the roof, trapped in an overturned (quarantine) bus, breaking out of isolation at the Foxconn factory," read one comment referencing several recent incidents blamed on zero-Covid strictures.
Chinese authorities monitor internet content that they believe to be politically sensitive, and by Saturday morning, it appeared that many postings and hashtags about the fire had been removed.
In a post on Weibo on Friday, Urumqi police stated that they had detained a woman with the last name Su for "spreading online rumours" pertaining to the number of victims of the fire.