Chinese authorities have eased COVID-19 restrictions following significant protests in some neighborhoods in the Xinjiang region.
Residents made it clear they are fed up with the strict “zero-COVID” policy that authorities have been enforcing through immense protests in the region. An official from the city of Ürümqi promised to open low-risk areas of the city 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 achieved “social zero COVID,” meaning there was no longer community spread and that new infections would only be detected in people already under health surveillance, for example for people in a central quarantine facility.
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During late-night demonstrations, protesters tore down barriers and chanted in the streets calling for an end to over-reactive 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 policies, even as it relaxes some measures like reducing quarantine times. The central government has repeatedly said it will stick to “zero-COVID”, but public opinion has changed on the issue.
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Videos from across China show protests against neighborhood lockdowns, as well as workplace restrictions and dangerous health practices.
A video posted by Disclose.TV showed hundreds of people in Guangzhou marching down the street, breaking down barriers and singing. China’s enforcers were also caught on video beating up protesters.
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And at tech maker Foxconn’s flagship iPhone factory in Zhengzhou, workers smashed windows and security cameras as they slammed the company for delaying pay and forcing COVID-positive workers to live with uninfected ones.
In the cold winter night, the people of Urumqi marched largely peacefully in large, puffy winter jackets.
Videos of protests showed people holding the Chinese flag and shouting “Open, open”. They quickly spread on Chinese social media despite heavy censorship.
In some scenes, people yelled and shoved at rows of men in the white full-body hazmat suits worn by local government employees and pandemic prevention volunteers, according to the videos.
Support for “zero-COVID” has plummeted in recent months as tragedies sparked public anger. Last week, the Zhengzhou city government in the central province of Henan apologized for the death of a 4-month-old baby.
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The infant died after a delay in receiving medical care while suffering from vomiting and diarrhea in quarantine at a hotel in Zhengzhou.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.