COVID lockdown restrictions are fueling public anger

A nearly deserted pedestrian mall in Beijing, China, on Saturday, November 26, 2022.
A nearly deserted pedestrian mall in Beijing, China. Photo: Bloomberg via Getty Images

Public anger over new coronavirus lockdown restrictions has sparked rare protests within China, with residents calling on the government to lift restrictions ahead of schedule.

Driving news: Record case numbers have caused a “COVID storm” to overtake China, affecting the country’s economic prospects and fueling public unrest.

The Big Picture: The protests are the latest sign of growing frustration with the government’s intensified approach to controlling COVID. China is the only major country still fighting the pandemic with lockdowns and mass testing, according to the Associated Press.

  • The new round of lockdowns has sparked protests across the western region of Xinjiang and the country’s capital, Beijing, Reuters reports.
  • Crowds took to the streets chanting “Stop the lockdown!”
  • Residents in Beijing confronted officials about lifting the lockdown, and some succeeded in lifting their restrictions early, according to Reuters.

Zoom: Videos across social media show people in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, chanting against COVID restrictions after an apartment fire killed 10 people, according to the Wall Street Journal.

  • Some protesters believe victims of the deadly fire were unable to leave their homes due to the lockdown, but officials deny the restrictions prevented anyone from leaving the building, according to BBC News.
  • “The Urumqi fire has angered everyone in the country,” Beijing resident Xun Li told Reuters.

recovery: Urumqi has faced COVID restrictions since early August, according to the WSJ. The city shut down transportation, leaving some tourists stranded there.

  • Officials promised to lift the lockdown soon, but said they were waiting for more orders from Beijing on how to implement COVID protocols in the future, according to the WSJ.

context: China’s “Zero COVID” policy uses city lockdowns and restrictions to try to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

  • At the beginning of the epidemic, many residents said that the government protected people through this policy. But now, that led to this civil unrest.
  • The Chinese government faces a choice between continuing with lockdowns and facing civil unrest or learning to live with the virus.

our thought bubble Via Bethany Allen from Axios: Protests in Xinjiang, where security forces and surveillance cameras cover the area and many ethnic minorities are herded into internment camps, are much rarer than in the rest of China – suggesting the level of desperation that may drive residents to protest despite risk of arrest.

More from Axios:

Covid storm in China

WHO chief: China’s strategy to eradicate the emerging corona virus is not “sustainable”

China’s challenge of “zero COVID” is getting tougher

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