PROTESTS against COVID restrictions in China appear to have intensified in the wake of a fire which killed 10 people in an apartment block in Urumqi, local media reported.
Thousands of people took to the streets of Shanghai to remember the victims and demonstrate against restrictions. Many were heard calling for President Xi Jinping to resign, ‘BBC’ reported. The ‘BBC’ has seen at least three people being bundled into police cars. The lockdown of blocks of flats has been blamed for deaths in the fire.
While Chinese authorities deny it was the cause, officials in Urumqi did issue an unusual apology late on Friday, and pledged to “restore order” by phasing out restrictions. At the protest in Shanghai - China’s biggest city and a global financial hub - some people were seen lighting candles and laying flowers for the victims. Others were heard shouting slogans such as “Xi Jinping, step down” and “Communist party, step down”. Some also held blank white banners.
Such demands are an unusual sight within China, where any direct criticism of the Government and the President can result in harsh penalties, ‘BBC’ reported. One protester said he felt “shocked and a bit excited” to see people out on the streets, calling it the first time he’d seen such large-scale dissent in China.
He said lockdowns made him feel “sad, angry and hopeless”, and had left him unable to see his unwell mother, who was undergoing cancer treatment. A female demonstrator told the ‘BBC’ police officers were asked how they felt about the protests, and the answer was “the same as you”. But, she said, “they wear their uniforms so they’re doing their job.”