Massive protests erupted in China’s far western Xinjiang region on Friday as long-simmering frustrations over the country’s strict COVID-19 policies hit a boiling point when claims circulated online blaming lockdown restrictions for hindering escape from a deadly apartment building fire.
Multiple videos said to be from the Xinjiang capital of Urumqi and shared on social media painted a picture of residents furious at the draconian “zero-COVID” policies imposed by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
Crowds chanted “End the lockdown!” pumping their fists in the air as they walked down a street, according to videos circulated on social media.
What sounded like gunfire was heard in a video said to be from an Uyghur district in the city.
Residents carrying the CCP’s flag gathered outside a local government building in Urumqi, chanting for lockdowns to be lifted, with some heard chanting “let’s die together,” according to a video shared on social media.
In front of the government building in Urumqi, an official came out to talk to the people, according to a video shared on Twitter by 247ChinaNews.
“When will the lockdown be lifted?” a man can be heard asking in the video.
“We will not unblock … it’s all for everyone’s safety,” replied Ma Zhijun, deputy secretary of the Urumqi Municipal Party Committee, according to the outlet.
The Epoch Times has been unable to independently verify the authenticity of the videos.
Apartment Fire Kills Ten
The protests in Urumqi followed a fire in a high-rise building in the city on Thursday that killed ten people, including three children.
Following the fire, claims circulated on Chinese social media platforms that pandemic restrictions on movement made the tragedy worse by impeding the response by preventing trucks from arriving at the scene quickly. There were also claims made online that residents couldn’t leave the building fast enough because fire escape doors were locked.
By Tom Ozimek