China blames 'forces with ulterior motives' for linking Urumqi fire to Covid-19 curbs

A protester shouts during a protest for the victims of a deadly fire, as well as against China's harsh Covid-19 restrictions. PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING - China on Monday blamed “forces with ulterior motives” for linking a deadly fire in the western Xinjiang region to strict Covid-19 measures, a key driver of countrywide protests in recent days.

Online posts circulating on both Chinese and overseas social media platforms have claimed that lengthy Covid-19 lockdowns in Urumqi hampered rescue attempts after the blaze on Thursday night.

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

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