China's Xinjiang residents chant end the lockdown

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China's Xinjiang residents chant end the lockdown

On Nov. 24th, a picture taken from a video shows firefighters spraying water on a residential building in Urumqi in western China's Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region. AP Photo Rare protests broke out in China's far western Xinjiang region, with crowds shouting at hazmat-suited guards after a deadly fire triggered anger over their prolonged COVID 19 lockdown, as nationwide infections set another record.

Crowds chanted End the Lockdown! According to videos circulated on Friday night, the Chinese social media showed that they were pumping their fists in the air as they walked down the street. The footage was released from the Urumqi capital, Xinjiang.

Videos showing people in a plaza singing China's national anthem with its lyric, Rise up, those who refuse to be slaves! While others shouted that they wanted to be released from lockdowns, some shouted that they wanted to be released.

Many of the 4 million residents of Urumqi's region have been prevented from leaving their homes for as long as 100 days because of the country's longest lockdowns. The city reported about 100 new cases each of the past two days.

10 million Uyghurs are in Xinjiang. Rights groups and Western governments have accused Beijing of abuses against the mainly Muslim ethnic minority, including forced labour in internment camps. China strongly rejects such claims.

The urumqi protests followed a fire in a high-rise building there that killed 10 on Thursday night.

Authorities said the residents had been able to go downstairs but videos of emergency crews' efforts, shared on Chinese social media, lead many internet users to believe that residents could not escape in time because the building was partially locked down.

Urumqi officials abruptly held a news conference in the early hours of Saturday and denied that COVID measures had hampered escape and rescue, but said they would investigate further. One said residents could have escaped faster if they had better understood fire safety.

Dali Yang, a political scientist at the University of Chicago, said such a blame-the- victim attitude would make people angrier. He told Reuters that public trust will just sink lower.

Users on China's Weibo platform described the incident as a tragedy that came from China's insistence on sticking to its zero-COVID policy and something that could happen to anyone. Some people were lamented by the September crash of a COVID quarantine bus.

Is there not something we can reflect on to make some changes, said an essay that went viral on Friday, questioning the official narrative on the Urumqi apartment fire.

China defends President Xi Jinping's zero-COVID policy as life-saving and necessary to prevent over-reliance on the healthcare system. Despite the growing public pushback and mounting toll on the world's second-biggest economy, officials have pledged to continue with it.

The country has recently changed its measures, shortening quarantines and taking other targeted steps, but this has caused widespread confusion and uncertainty in big cities, including Beijing, where many residents are locked down at home.

China recorded 34,909 daily local cases, low by global standards but the third record in a row, with infections spreading throughout cities, prompting widespread lock-downs and other restrictions on movement and business.

Shanghai, China's most populous city and financial hub, tightened testing requirements on Saturday for entering cultural venues such as museums and libraries, and made it easier for people to show a negative COVID test taken within 48 hours, down from 72 hours earlier in the day.

After briefly reopened, Beijing's Chaoyang Park, popular with runners and picnickers, was shut again.