Protests held against "zero-COVID" policy as China sees record cases

Residents in various areas of China have protested against the nation's strict "zero-COVID" policy, according to videos shared on social media, as Beijing on Saturday reported a record number of infections for the third consecutive day.

The videos believed to have been taken in Urumqi, the capital of the far-western Xinjiang region, the southwestern city of Chongqing and Beijing went viral, with many comments sympathizing with the demonstrators posted. Some of the comments were later deleted.

As the leadership of President Xi Jinping sticks with the stringent measures involving lockdowns of areas where outbreaks occur, people banned from leaving their homes often find it difficult to procure adequate food and daily necessities.

As of Friday, China had logged daily coronavirus cases of over 34,000 in the mainland, according to the National Health Commission, with the figure hitting a new high since it began releasing data in the spring of 2020.

In a video believed to have been taken in Urumqi, many people took to the streets and shouted, "Lift the lockdown."

Public frustration with the radical anti-virus steps had been growing in the city, where a fire in a high-rise apartment building killed 10 people on Thursday, fueling speculation that rescue efforts may have been delayed due to strict COVID restrictions.

In what is believed to be Chongqing, a man exclaimed that he had been inconvenienced by the draconian restrictions. Authorities attempted to escort him away but were stopped by nearby residents, according to a video posted on social media.

In the eastern part of Beijing, residents objected to the imposition of a lockdown, saying it was stricter than rules recently eased somewhat by the government. A resident told Kyodo News a lockdown in the area was not imposed.

Facing growing public anger, the Chinese government said earlier this week it will refrain from implementing citywide lockdowns and instead isolate buildings where COVID cases are reported.

The government earlier this month decided to optimize COVID response measures to rectify the "one-size-fits-all approach and excessive policy steps," including by shortening quarantine periods.

However, the French chamber of commerce in China said in a statement on Thursday that the eased measures had not been implemented in a uniform manner, affecting French companies' business activities.

CCI France Chine called on authorities to "eradicate unnecessary and overzealous restrictions" and said French enterprises wish to see "a clear exit strategy from the zero-COVID policy at some point in the near future."

© Kyodo News