Chinese authorities have loosened COVID-19 restrictions in some neighborhoods in the Xinjiang region after major protests.
Residents made it clear that they were fed up with the strict “COVID zero” policies that the authorities have imposed through huge protests in the area. An Urumqi city official promised to open the 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 closed.
Officials also triumphantly declared Saturday that they had essentially achieved “social COVID zero,” meaning there was no more community spread and new infections were being detected only in people already under health checks, such as those are in a centralized quarantine facility.
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In the nightly demonstrations, protesters tore down barriers and chanted in the streets demanding an end to the reactive measures. Public anger peaked following a fire at an apartment complex that killed 10 residents according to the official death toll.
The government has doubled down on its policy even as it relaxes some measures, such as shortening quarantine times. The central government has repeatedly said it will stick to “zero COVID,” but public opinion has shifted 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.
In a video posted by Disclose.TV, hundreds of people in Guangzhou are shown marching down the street, breaking down barriers and chanting. China’s enforcers 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 lashed out at the company for delaying pay and forcing COVID-positive workers to live with uninfected workers.
People in Urumqi marched largely peacefully in large winter jackets on the cold winter night.
Videos from the protests showed people holding the Chinese flag and chanting “Open up, open up.” They spread quickly on Chinese social media despite heavy censorship.
In some scenes, people were yelling and pushing against rows of men in the full-body white hazmat suits worn by local government workers and pandemic prevention volunteers, according to the videos.
Support for “zero COVID” has collapsed in recent months as 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 baby died after a delay in receiving medical attention while suffering from vomiting and diarrhea while being quarantined at a hotel in Zhengzhou.
Associated Press contributed to this report.