China street protests continue as country reports record Covid-19 cases

Demonstrations held in Beijing, Shanghai and other cities after fire kills 10 in Xinjiang's capital Urumqi

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Rare protests continued in several cities in China on Monday after a deadly fire in the city of Urumqi, capital of the north-western region of Xinjiang, stirred anger against Covid-19 restrictions.

Demonstrations were held in Beijing and Shanghai and also reported in several other cities — including Wuhan, where the virus originated three years ago.

The embassy in Abu Dhabi did not immediately respond to The National's request for comment.

The death of at least 10 people in an Urumqi apartment block fire on Saturday has been the catalyst for the protests, with a vigil for the victims turning into an anti-lockdown demonstration.

Some reports have said rescue efforts were hindered by measures to curb the spread of the virus. The authorities have denied this.

Chinese stocks fell on Monday and the yuan weakened against the dollar amid concerns about the protests. Its blue-chip CSI 300 Index recorded its worst day in a month, while Hong Kong's Hang Seng index also dropped.

Demonstrators light candles for the victims of the Urumqi fire during a protest in Beijing on Sunday. Bloomberg

China's zero-Covid policy has resulted in snap lockdowns and mass testing in many parts of the country. On Monday, a record number of 40,000 new cases was reported.

Protesters in Shanghai gathered once again on the city's Wulumuqi street — named after Urumqi ― returning to the site for a silent protest just hours after a previous vigil was dispersed by officials.

A BBC journalist was held by police while reporting on the protests in Shanghai, the broadcaster said on Monday morning.

China's foreign ministry said Edward Lawrence did not identify himself as a journalist and the BBC's statement “did not reflect what happened”.

In a press briefing on Monday evening, ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said “forces with ulterior motives” on social media were linking the Urumqi fire to Covid-19 policies.

“We believe that with the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party and support of the Chinese people, our fight against Covid-19 will be successful,” he added.

Updated: November 28, 2022, 11:29 AM