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China: Xinjiang loosens COVID curbs after protests

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Xinjiang, Nov 27: Authorities in China's western Xinjiang region opened up some neighborhoods in the capital of Urumqi on Saturday after residents held extraordinary late-night protests against the draconian COVID-19 lockdown.

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Hundreds of people took to the streets of Urumqi on Friday night against the containment measures which saw many of the city's 4 million residents barred from leaving their homes for as long as 100 days.

China: Xinjiang loosens COVID curbs after protests

Chinese media showed footage of people breaking through metal fences, and some of them can be heard shouting "End the lockdown!"

Other video footage showed people in a plaza singing China's national anthem with its lyric, "Rise up, those who refuse to be slaves!"

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Apartment fire deaths blamed on lockdown

Protesters also vented their anger over a fire in an apartment compound that had killed 10, according to the official death toll.

Reports said that emergency workers took three hours to extinguish the blaze — a delay many attributed to obstacles caused by the curbs against the coronavirus.

China: Xinjiang loosens COVID curbs after protests

Some internet users speculated that residents struggled to escape in time because the building was partially locked down.

Some residents elsewhere in the city have had their doors chained physically shut.

Urumqi officials abruptly held a news conference in the early hours of Saturday to deny COVID measures had hampered escape and rescue.

Given China's vast security apparatus, protests are risky anywhere in the country, but they are extraordinary in Xinjiang, which for years has been the target of a brutal security crackdown on the region's 10 million Uyghur Muslims.

Hundreds of thousands of Uyghurs and other minorities have been sent to internment camps for reeducation.

Most of the protesters visible in the videos were Han Chinese. A Uyghur woman living in Urumqi told The Associated Press it was because Uyghurs were too scared to take to the streets despite their anger.

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Small protests held in Beijing

In the capital of Beijing 2,700 kilometers (1,678 miles) away, large areas of the city are under lockdown, prompting some residents to stage small-scale protests or confront their local officials.

A video shared with Reuters news agency showed Beijing residents in an unidentifiable part of the city marching around an open-air car park on Saturday, shouting "End the lockdown."

Beijing health authorities reported 2,454 new COVID-19 cases in the past 15 hours on Saturday.

Beijing presses on with zero-COVID policy

China is now the only major country in the world that still is fighting the pandemic through mass testing and lockdowns.

Authorities defend President Xi Jinping's zero-COVID policy as life-saving and necessary to prevent overwhelming the health care system.

Officials have vowed to continue with it despite the growing public pushback and its mounting toll on the world's second-biggest economy.

The explosion of criticism marks a sharp turn in public opinion. Early on in the pandemic, China's approach to controlling COVID-19 was hailed by its own citizens as minimizing deaths at a time when other countries were suffering devastating waves of infections.

Mark Williams of Capital Economics warned in a note this week that China could be facing the worst period since the early weeks of the pandemic both for the economy and the health care system as further lockdowns become necessary.

On Friday, the country recorded 34,909 daily local cases, low by global standards but the third record in a row, with infections spreading in numerous cities.

The caseload prompted widespread lockdowns and other curbs on movement and business, including in financial hub Shanghai, which endured a two-month lockdown earlier this year.

mm/sri (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

Source: DW

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