Chinese authorities are easing COVID-19 restrictions in some neighborhoods after protests

Chinese authorities have lifted COVID-19 restrictions in some neighborhoods of the Xinjiang region after significant protests.

Residents made it clear they had had enough of the strict “zero-COVID” policy enforced by authorities through massive protests in the area. A Urumqi city official promised to open the city’s low-risk areas the next morning.

City authorities eased restrictions on Saturday morning, allowing residents to move more freely, but many other neighborhoods remain under lockdown.

Officials also triumphantly declared on Saturday that they had, in effect, achieved “societal zero COVID,” meaning there was no longer any spread in the community and new infections were only discovered in people already under health surveillance, such as those in a centralized quarantine facility .

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During nighttime demonstrations, protesters broke down barriers and chanted in the streets for an end to the overly reactive measures. Public anger peaked after a fire at an apartment complex that killed 10 residents, according to the official death toll.

A man in a mask buys meat near a banner reading “Beijing Government Reserve Meat” for sale at a supermarket in Beijing, Saturday, November 26, 2022.
(AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

The government has doubled down on its policies, even as it relaxes some measures, such as shortening quarantine times. The central government has repeatedly said it will adhere to “zero COVID”, but public opinion on the subject has changed.

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Videos from across China show protests against neighborhood closures, workplace restrictions and dangerous health practices.

Residents line up for COVID-19 testing in Beijing, Saturday, November 26, 2022.

Residents line up for COVID-19 testing in Beijing, Saturday, November 26, 2022.
(AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

A video posted by Disclose.TV showed hundreds of people in Guangzhou marching down the street, kicking aside barriers and chanting. Chinese enforcers have also been caught on video beating protesters.

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And at technology maker Foxconn’s flagship iPhone factory in Zhengzhou, workers smashed windows and surveillance cameras as they lashed out at the company for delaying payment and forcing COVID-positive workers to live with uninfected workers.

Residents line up for COVID-19 testing in Beijing, Saturday, November 26, 2022.

Residents line up for COVID-19 testing in Beijing, Saturday, November 26, 2022.
(AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

People in Urumqi marched largely peacefully in big puffy winter coats in the cold winter night.

Videos of protests showed people holding the Chinese flag and shouting “Open up, open up”. Despite heavy censorship, they quickly spread on Chinese social media.

In some scenes, people yelled and shoved into rows of men in the full-body white hazmat suits worn by local government workers and pandemic prevention volunteers, according to the videos.

Support for “zero COVID” has plummeted in recent months, as tragedies sparked the wrath of the public. Last week, the Zhengzhou city government in central Henan province apologized for the death of a 4-month-old baby.

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The child died after a delay in receiving medical care while suffering from vomiting and diarrhea in quarantine at a hotel in Zhengzhou.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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