Protests have erupted in Beijing and the far western Xinjiang region over COVID-19 lockdowns and a deadly fire on Thursday in a high-rise building in Urumqi that killed 10 people (with some reports putting the number as high as 40).
Crowds took to the street in Urumqi, the capitol of Xinjiang, with protesters chanting “End the lockdown!” while pumping their fists in the air, following the circulation of videos of the fire on Chinese social media on Friday night.
Protest videos show people in a plaza singing China’s national anthem – particularly the line: “Rise up, those who refuse to be slaves!” Others shouted that they did not want lockdowns. In the northern Beijing district of Tiantongyuan, residents tore down signs and took to the streets.
Reuters verified that the footage was published from Urumqi, where many of its 4 million residents have been under some of the country’s longest lockdowns, barred from leaving their homes for as long as 100 days.
In the capital of Beijing 2,700 km (1,678 miles) away, some residents under lockdown staged small-scale protests or confronted their local officials over movement restrictions placed on them, with some successfully pressuring them into lifting them ahead of a schedule. –Reuters
According to an early Saturday news conference by Urumqi officials, COVID measures did not hamper escape and rescue during the fire, but Chinese social media wasn’t buying it.
“The Urumqi fire got everyone in the country upset,” said Beijing resident Sean Li.
According to Reuters;
A planned lockdown for his compound “Berlin Aiyue” was called off on Friday after residents protested to their local leader and convinced him to cancel it, negotiations that were captured by a video posted on social media.
The residents had caught wind of the plan after seeing workers putting barriers on their gates. “That tragedy could have happened to any of us,” he said.
By Saturday evening, at least ten other compounds lifted lockdown before the announced end-date after residents complained, according to a Reuters tally of social media posts by residents.