Clashes in China as people try to leave coronavirus-hit Hubei
Beijing: 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 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 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 of Jiangxi province.
People queuing outside hospitals and health centres in one
Chinese city on Thursday expressed confusion and frustration as they tried to
get a test the government has said people need before they can travel out of
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.”