Protesters, angry about long COVID-19 lockdowns, have taken to the streets in Urumqi, the capital of China’s far western Xinjiang region.
The protests followed a high-rise apartment building fire in Urumqi on Thursday that killed 10 people and concerns that the lockdown measures may have prevented firefighters from entering the building quickly and may have hampered the exit of some residents.
The demonstrations also follow online discussions, now removed, on Chinese social media questioning why there are maskless spectators at the World Cup games, while China continues to subject its citizens to long lockdowns.
“More than 120 countries in the rest of the world have lifted their COVID restrictive measures quite some time ago,” began one of the questions posed by a writer who said he lives in north central Shannxi province, home to China’s ancient capital city Xi’an.
“Why should they lead freer lives than Chinese citizens? I did not see anyone sporting face masks at the Qatar World Cup opening ceremony and did not hear of any attendee showing proof of negative COVID tests; does this mean they live on a different planet from us?”
Urumqi has been under lockdown since August. However, it is reporting about 100 new COVID cases each day.
Urumqi is also home to many Uyghurs, a mostly Muslim ethnic group that human rights groups and western governments say suffered many human rights abuses at the hands of the Chinese government. China rejects the charges as interference in its internal affairs.