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More Chinese cities easing COVID restrictions after unprecedented protests

China protests
AP/Kanis Leung
Protesters hold up blank white papers during a commemoration for victims of a recent Urumqi deadly fire in Central in Hong Kong, Monday, Nov. 28, 2022. Students in Hong Kong chanted “oppose dictatorship” in a protest against China’s anti-virus controls after crowds in mainland cities called for President Xi Jinping to resign in the biggest show of opposition to the ruling Communist Party in decades. (AP Photo/Kanis Leung)

More cities in China announced they would ease strict COVID-19 policies on Thursday after protests erupted last week and evolved into a direct challenge to the ruling Chinese Communist Party and the government’s “zero-COVID” policy.

Exactly three years from when the first COVID-19 case was publicly recorded in Wuhan, several cities announced they would ease testing requirements and policies that restricted movement around municipalities.

Cities lifting the policies include the southern city Guangzhou, the northern city Shijiazhuang and Chengdu in the southwest.

In the capital of Beijing, officials may allow some people to isolate at home instead of being contained in crowded quarantine centers, according to local reports.

On Monday, some cities eased other coronavirus policies after a wave of protests swept China over the weekend.

Beijing officials said Monday said the city would no longer block access to apartments after a deadly fire broke out in the city of Urumqi and killed 10 people.

Demonstrators have expressed anger that pandemic barriers blocked emergency responders from quickly accessing the residence where the fire broke out.

China’s zero-COVID policy is among the strictest in the world. It forces mass testing and quarantines and has kept residents under lockdown for months at a time.

China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs dismissed accusations that its zero-COVID policy was too strict.

“Facts have proven that China’s epidemic response measures are science-based, correct and effective,” a spokesperson said.

The protests, which spread to at least eight cities, are the biggest challenge to Chinese President Xi Jinping of his tenure, with some even calling for his ouster.

Demonstrations did not show any signs of continuing on Thursday. Chinese authorities have been stopping citizens at random and checking smartphones.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Tags Beijing China Chinese protests Xi Jinping zero COVID
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