Chinese authorities have loosed COVID-19 restrictions in some neighborhoods of the Xinjiang region following significant protests.
Residents made clear that they had enough of the strict “zero-COVID” policies authorities have enforced through immense protests in the area. An official from the city of Urumqi promised to open low-risk areas of the city the following morning.
The city’s authorities relaxed the restrictions on Saturday morning, allowing residents to move about more freely, but many other neighborhoods remain under lockdown.
Officials also triumphantly declared Saturday that they had basically achieved “societal zero-COVID,” meaning that there was no more community spread and that new infections were being detected only in people already under health monitoring, such as those in a centralized quarantine facility.
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Late-night demonstrations saw protesters tear down barriers and chanting in the streets demanding an end to the over reactive measures. Public anger peaked following a fire in an apartment complex that killed 10 residents according to official death tolls.
The government has doubled down its policy even as it loosens 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 topic.
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Videos from across China show protests against neighborhood lockdowns as well as restrictions in the workplace and dangerous health practices.
In video posted by Disclose.TV showed hundreds of people in Guangzhou marching down the street, kicking aside barriers and chanting. China enforcers also have been captured on video beating protesters down.
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And at tech manufacturer 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 ones.
People in Urumqi largely marched peacefully in big puffy winter jackets in the cold winter night.
Videos of protests featured people holding the Chinese flag and shouting “Open up, open up.” They spread rapidly on Chinese social media despite heavy censorship.
In some scenes, people shouted and pushed against rows of men in the white whole-body hazmat suits that local government workers and pandemic-prevention volunteers wear, according to the videos.
Support for “zero-COVID” has cratered 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 attention while suffering vomiting and diarrhea in quarantine at a hotel in Zhengzhou.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.