Beijing blames ‘forces with ulterior motives’ for fuelling rage in the country

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As protests aimed at Covid curbs spread across China, the country has now blamed “forces with ulterior motives” for linking the deadly fire in Urumqi to strict Covid measures. Notably, protests flared in the country after an apartment fire in the city left 10 dead on Thursday. Speculations were rife that people could not be rescued in time because of the strict Covid curbs in the city, parts of which had been under lockdown for 100 days. However, officials have denied that there is any link between the two.

In response to a question at a regular press briefing about the disaster, foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said, “On social media there are forces with ulterior motives that relate this fire with the local response to Covid-19.” 

Also Read | Several detained in Shanghai as anti-Covid lockdown protests rage in China

unkindwhile, Shanghai authorities tightened restrictions and put up barriers on Monday around a city centre area where hundreds of people protested over the weekend. The entire country has been engulfed by protests as China continues to follow a strict zero-Covid policy, a show of civil disobedience unprecedented since leader Xi Jinping assumed power a decade ago.

“We hope to end the lockdown,” 28-year-old Shi told Reuters at a candlelight vigil in Beijing late on Sunday. “We want to live a normal life. We should all bravely express our feelings.”

Even though the curbs have meant that China has managed to keep its official death toll in the thousands, compared with more than a million in the United States, and elsewhere in the world, the citizens have suffered due to being confined at home. The country’s economy has taken a hit as well. 

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Police in Shanghai on Sunday dragged and detained people who were protesting against strict restrictions. People were seen singing the national anthem as they gathered in the streets of Shanghai. 

unkindwhile, China reported the fifth straight daily record of 40,347 new COVID-19 infections on November 27, of which 3,822 were symptomatic and 36,525 were asymptomatic, the National Health Commission said on Monday.

Since the cases continue to rise, abandoning the Covid policy will risk overwhelming the health system and lead to widespread illness and deaths, experts say.

Global markets were also in a sombre mood on Monday, sending oil prices lower and the dollar higher, with Chinese stocks and the yuan falling sharply. Chinese state media is not talking about the protests and has urged citizens in editorials to stick to COVID rules. 

(With inputs from agencies)

 

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