Udayavni Special

Violence erupts in China’s coronavirus-hit Hubei as people try to move out

PTI, Mar 28, 2020, 9:19 PM IST

In a rare display of public anger in China, dozens of people in central Hubei province, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak till recently, attacked official vehicles after they were stopped from crossing a bridge and travel to neighbouring Jiangxi province after the lifting of the lockdown.

Hubei province with over 56 million people was kept under lockdown from January 23 as part of aggressive measures to bring down coronavirus (COVID-19) cases which rapidly spread in the area.

Videos on Chinese social media on Friday showed unprecedented scenes of police from Hubei and Jiangxi clashing on the bridge connecting the two provinces over barricades erected from stopping Hubei people from moving out over fears of coronavirus spreading.

Policemen from both sides argued over how to verify if people were allowed to enter Jiangxi, according to local media reports.

It was a major relief for millions of people in Hubei province when the Chinese government which kept it under lockdown lifted the restrictions on travel.

The government will permit people from the province to travel if they hold a green health code, meaning no contact with any infected or suspected COVID-19 cases.

But people of Hubei to their shock on Friday found roadblocks on the 1st Yangtze River Bridge that separates Huangmei county in Hubei erected by Huangmei county authorities of Jiangxi province.

In local media reports, witnesses were quoted as saying that Huangmei police in Jiujiang erected roadblocks on the bridge to stop people from Hubei from crossing it, a move they alleged stigmatised them.

Video footage shared online showed rows of police armed with riot shields holding back the crowds, while members of the public could be seen damaging and even overturning police vehicles.

In a clip published by the Huanggang city government, which administers Huangmei, the county’s Communist Party chief Ma Yanzhou could be heard speaking to the people through a loud hailer, warning them that by gathering in a large group they were increasing their chances of contracting the virus, Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported.

While it is unclear exactly how the clash started, police from the two sides published separate official statements online, which were quickly deleted, it said.

The incident underlines the problems China faces as it seeks a return to normalcy after months of lockdown, the Post said.

After the incident, the governments of Huangmei and Jiujiang on Friday issued a joint statement saying they had agreed to remove the barriers set up to restrict travel during the lockdown, and also to recognise each other’s health screening codes to make it easier for people in good health to get to where they needed to be, the Post report said.

An article by the ruling Communist Party of China (CPC) mouthpiece, People’s Daily acknowledged the problems in getting the country back on its feet.

In the past few days, all walks of life have called for governments to accept workers from Hubei, it said.

However, it is undeniable that some places, intentionally or not, have set up obstacles for Hubei migrant workers to return to their posts and hold prejudices against them.

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