A huge protest march swept out of China’s Hubei province on Friday, with thousands of angry residents pouring across a bridge into neighbouring Jiangxi province and clashing with police

Police patrol a neighbourhood on January 22, 2020 in Wuhan, China. The cause of the person's illness is as of yet unknown. A new infectious coronavirus known as "2019-nCoV" was discovered in Wuhan as the number of cases rose to over 400 in mainland China. Health officials stepped up efforts

The capital city of Hubei province is Wuhan, ground zero for the coronavirus pandemic.

The Hubei residents streaming across the bridge are clearly angry after weeks of the coronavirus lockdown, which in theory is being lifted as the Chinese government claims infections in Hubei have dropped to zero. Evidently the protesters are infuriated by how the government has treated them during the crisis – infuriated enough to flip over police cars and swarm past riot control barriers.

According to the “Things China Doesn’t Want You to Know” Twitter account quoted above, there are rumours the riot was kicked off by a fight between Hubei and Jiangxi police officers. The Hubei police were reportedly angered by Jiangxi police crossing into their jurisdiction.

A number of Hubei police officers appear to have joined the civilian demonstrators in their march toward Jiangxi, and evidently raised few objections when the civilians decided to trash a few Jiangxi police cars and club riot police with their own shields.

Noted Chinese dissident Badiucao heard rumours that the fight broke out because Jiangxi police resisted orders to open the border to Hubei after the coronavirus lockdown officially ended on Wednesday. One reason for their reluctance, according to Badiucao, is that “no one trusts the official numbers” for reduced coronavirus infections in Hubei, not even the police.

Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported the demonstration was still going strong after eight hours of escalating confrontations:

Jiangxi police on a checkpoint on the bridge had allowed a group of migrant workers stranded during the lockdown to pass, but had refused to allow Hubei residents through.

After angry disputes broke out, Jiangxi police sent in riot police to seal off the entrance to Jiujiang.

Video footage posted to YouTube showed thousands of people marching up the approach road to the bridge, shoulder to shoulder with uniformed police from Hubei, shouting “Go Hubei! Go Hubei!”

A Hubei resident told RFA people from the province feel stigmatized and discriminated against, as they are still unwelcome in some other parts of China and treated poorly even when allowed to enter.

RFA confirmed on Friday morning that the bridge battle broke out after Jiangxi police “injured Hubei police in the morning.” The civilian protesters expressed anger at the way they have been treated during the coronavirus epidemic.

Canada’s Globe and Mail quoted a Chinese Communist Party (CCP) official yelling at the crowd through a loudspeaker and telling them it was “dangerous” to gather on the bridge due to “the risk of virus infection,” but the warning did not appear to be widely heeded.

The Communist Party’s People’s Daily did report on the bridge conflict even as social media videos were scrubbed, describing it as “regrettable.”

“The people of Hubei have made great efforts and significant contributions to winning the battle against the epidemic. People from all sectors of society have also been calling for the acceptance of Hubei’s migrant workers. However, it’s undeniable that some individuals of some regions have intentionally or unintentionally discriminated against Hubei people, set up obstacles for them to return to work,” the People’s Daily wrote.

The Globe and Mail reported growing scepticism of the CCP’s claims to have controlled the epidemic, citing health officials who admitted thousands of asymptomatic patients were systematically excluded from the official counts to produce the “zero local infections” figure uncritically repeated by the World Health Organization and many American media outlets. Furthermore, the number of cremated remains returned to grieving families by the authorities this week is noticeably larger than the 3,200 deaths officially admitted by the CCP.