Massive protests erupted in China’s northwestern Xinjiang region against President Xi Jinping in the aftermath of the deaths of 10 people in an apartment fire, the latest sign of unrest in the country.
The protesters directed their rage at the country’s strict COVID-19 policies.
In videos posted on social media on Friday evening, crowds chanted “End the lockdown,” as demonstrators appeared to link China’s zero COVID-19 policy to the deaths in the fire.
China has imposed some of the country’s longest curfews, with many of Urumqi’s 4 million residents barred from leaving their homes for up to 100 days. In the last two days, the city has reported approximately 200 new cases.
Although the high-rise building’s occupants were reportedly able to descend the stairs, Reuters reported on Saturday that videos shared on Chinese social media showing rescue operations misled many into thinking that residents were unable to leave because the structure was partially locked down.
The latest protests, which come in the wake of widespread employee unrest at Foxconn’s flagship iPhone plant that has resulted in thousands of resignations, will increase pressure on Chinese President Xi Jinping.
Videos of the Foxconn protests in Zhengzhou, the capital of Henan province, quickly went viral online as a result of the protest, which was in part stoked by China’s COVID-19 restrictions.
The plant was scheduled to enter partial lockdown from Friday at midnight until Sunday in order to stop the spread of COVID-19 infections, which had put it under lockdown after an outbreak in October.
Daily coronavirus cases have reached levels not seen since last year, indicating that the ‘zero-Covid’ policy has failed. On November 25, China reported 35,183 new Covid infections, a new high for the third day in a row.