New Delhi: A fire on Thursday that killed 10 people in a high-rise building in Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang region, has sparked widespread public anger as many internet users surmised that residents could not escape in time because the building was partially locked down, which city officials denied.
Protests simmered in Shanghai early on Sunday, as residents in several Chinese cities, many of them angered by the deadly fire, pushed back against heavy COVID-19 curbs nearly three years into the pandemic, Reuters reported.
In Shanghai, China’s most populous city and financial hub, residents gathered on Saturday night at the city’s Wulumuqi Road – which borrows its name from Urumqi – for a vigil that turned into a protest in the early hours of Sunday.
“Lift lockdown for Urumqi, lift lockdown for Xinjiang, lift lockdown for all of China!” the crowds in Shanghai shouted, according to a video circulated on social media.
At one point a large group began shouting, “Down with the Chinese Communist Party, down with Xi Jinping, free Urumqi!”, according to witnesses and videos, in a rare public protest against the Chinese leadership.
A large group of police looked on and sometimes tried to break up the crowd, the report added.
Videos from Shanghai widely shared on Chinese social media showed crowds facing dozens of police and calling out chants including: “Serve the people”, “We don’t want health codes” and “We want freedom”.
Some social media users posted screenshots of street signs for Wulumuqi Road, both to evade censors and show support for protesters in Shanghai. Others shared comments or posts calling for all of “you brave young people” to be careful. Many included advice on what to do if the police came or started arresting people during a protest or vigil.
Shanghai: 25 million people were put under lockdown for two months earlier this year, an ordeal that provoked anger and protest.
Urumqi: On Friday night, crowds took to the streets chanting “End the lockdown!” and pumping their fists in the air after the deadly fire, according to videos circulated on Chinese social media. Many of Urumqi’s 4 million residents have been under some of the country’s longest lockdowns, barred from leaving their homes for as long as 100 days.
Beijing: 2,700 km (1,700 miles) away, some residents under lockdown staged small protests or confronted local officials on Saturday over movement restrictions, with some successfully pressuring them into lifting the curbs ahead of a schedule. A video shared with Reuters showed Beijing residents in an unidentifiable part of the capital marching around an open-air carpark on Saturday, shouting “End the lockdown!”
The Beijing government did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Saturday, the report added.
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