Residents compared being locked down in one of the world’s most densely populated countries to the penal system.
The Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) pandemic restrictions are so harsh people have started regarding themselves as jail inmates.
“It was like a prison,” Shanghai resident Coco Wang said, according to Reuters.
Wang revealed she is more concerned about the CCP’s authoritarian zero-COVID strategy than the virus itself.
“We are not afraid of the virus; we are afraid of this policy,” she said, according to the newswire agency.
The strict policy has already forced up to 59 million people into isolation following Beijing’s recent decision to lock down parts of the nation’s capital.
Although two volunteers from each apartment building are permitted to spend two hours a day shopping for groceries, many have complained about chronic supply shortages and feeling malnourished. There have also been reports of residents having to barter for certain kinds of food, hunt around for bread, loot supermarkets and resort to civil disobedience.
Beijing reportedly faced the “most severe” restrictions at the time of publication. Residents were banned from leaving their entire southwest neighborhood, and authorities suspended all activities that did not prevent viral transmission.
Residents from other pandemic-affected districts have been ordered to work from home. Officials have closed restaurants, gymnasiums, entertainment venues, many bus routes, multiple subway lines, roads, compounds, and parks.
The crackdown dramatically turned what was once a bustling metropolis into an eerily quiet city.
“It is quite strange; it is the first time in all my years in Beijing that I see empty streets in the middle of summer,” Beijing resident Ding said, according to Reuters.
Businesses still open reported low foot traffic due to widespread concerns about the risk of infection and the mandatory quarantine process.
“This outbreak has truly unsettled everyone,” barber Song said, according to the media outlet.
“North of us are malls and offices that have been sealed and their [pandemic] apps might mark them as close contacts if they came,” he added.
No time for games
The Olympic Council of Asia (OCA) postponed the 2022 Asian Games due to the outbreak and government restrictions.
The event was initially scheduled for Sept. 10 to 25 in Hangzhou city. More than 11,000 athletes were expected, exceeding the usual number a summer Olympic competition typically hosts.
No new dates were announced at the time of publication, and the timing will be revealed in the “near future” once organizers have reached an agreement with the Chinese Olympic Committee.
“[OCA is] very well prepared to deliver the games on-time despite the global challenges,” a representative said according to the Associated Press.
“However, the decision [to postpone] was taken by all the stakeholders after carefully considering the pandemic situation and the size of the games,” the representative added.
OCA has already canceled the 2022 Asian Youth Games announced for Dec. 20 to 28 in Shantou. That event will next be held in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, in 2025.
Two different Diamond League track meets have also been scrapped in Shanghai and Shenzhen. This event will be moved to Chorzow, Poland instead, on Aug. 6.
“[Cancellation was] due to travel restrictions and strict quarantine requirements currently in place for entry into China,” organizers said in a statement according to the Associated Press.
The International University Sports Federation (FISU) separately postponed its 2021 World University Games scheduled for Jun. 26 to Jul. 7 in Chengdu city. An estimated 6,000 athletes were expected to participate.
Although FISU had planned to hold the event in 2022, the Swiss organizer again decided to postpone until 2023.
“Continued uncertainty over conditions has made rescheduling the sensible choice,” FISU president Leonz Eder said in a statement obtained by the Associated Press.
Meanwhile, Shanghai authorities are rumored to have an ambitious target of stopping all infections across non-quarantine zones before the end of May.
Officials reportedly warned residents in at least a quarter of city districts not to leave their homes or accept deliveries. This prompted many to quickly replenish food supplies in a panic buying frenzy.
Some were earlier permitted to move freely within residential buildings. However, this policy appears to have changed since one woman reportedly shouted at neighbors through a megaphone to “go home.”
Many residents have already ended their lives in desperation to escape pain and suffering from harsh CCP virus mandates.
In one video, an individual is dangling from a high-rise building window in Shanghai. Then, finally, he releases his grip and plunges nearly 30 stories to his death.
More footage shows someone falling backward out of a fifth-story window and crashing head-first onto the grass below. A bystander runs over to check for vital signs and offers first-aid to the fatally injured person. According to the Quora website, landing on the head can cause instant death in most cases.
Other images seemingly depict a woman falling ten floors. She lands on her bottom and lies motionless on the concrete pavement as startled bystanders watch the tragedy unfold. Then, in a different video, a man jumps off the top of a 20-story building with extended arms. He tumbles in the air before finally landing on his back. A bystander covers his ears and walks away from the scene.
In other footage, a man crouches on a ledge before jumping off. He falls about seven floors before landing feet-first on the sidewalk below. A woman exits a nearby shop to see what happened after hearing a loud thump outside the premises.
Different videos show a woman clinging onto a balcony as her neighbors gather on the ledge below. Then, finally, she releases her grip, and at least two neighbors unsuccessfully try to catch her as she plunges to the ground.
A team of four city officials wearing hazmat suits put the motionless woman into a black body bag before transporting her to a nearby coroner’s office.
A separate video shows a Shanghai man, who claims to be a worker, begging truck drivers to pull over and feed him.
“Shanghai people, not one person cares about us [so please] take care of us [and] expose this! Help me expose this: I am a worker; I am going to starve to death!” he said, according to The Guardian.
Some close contacts who tested negative complained about being transported to quarantine camps in neighboring Anhui province, nearly 250 miles from home.
“Police told us that there were too many positive cases in our compound and, if we carried on living here, we would all become infected,” a resident known only as Lucy said, according to News Limited. “We had no choice.”
Other patients previously criticized converted schools, apartment blocks, and other quarantine centers for being overcrowded and unsanitary.
Photos shared online seemingly show older adults in wheelchairs, wearing face masks and protective gear. They arrive by bus outside a quarantine center. Other pictures depict babies or loved ones over 90 years old transported to makeshift hospitals in the dark of night.
Chinese health experts urged CCP officials to explain precisely how zero transmission outside quarantined areas is defined.
China Center for Disease Control and Prevention chief epidemiologist Wu Zunyou indicated that zero transmission might mean there are no “freely active” cases in the general population.
Authorities have also been accused of failing to record CCP virus fatalities in the death count. As a result, at least one grieving Shanghai family claims their loved one died from the disease. Still, authorities did not add the case to official statistics, raising questions about the accuracy of official data.
Tension is boiling even from within the CCP’s ranks. Vice-Premier Sun Chunlan earlier visited Shanghai to criticize local authorities for “lying flat” and creating chaos in disease prevention.
Minhang District People’s Congress Rep. Yang Hai separately urged everyone to boycott nucleic acid testing methods on behalf of community volunteers.
The former Aerospace Factory party committee secretary claimed that Pingyang Liucun residents had 13 nucleic acid tests and nine rapid antigen tests since Mar. 13. However, the number of infections continues to rise in tandem with the number of patients tested, leading Yang to suspect possible cross-infection from frequent testing.
He also complained about “opaque and inaccurate” updates once testing is complete and a failure to evacuate infected patients promptly. He was also concerned about the lack of hospital-grade disinfection.
Although these concerns were relayed to all levels of government, nobody took decisive action, according to the Secret China website.
He described the treatment as a whirlpool of “willful, stubborn, crushing, desperate and forcible advancement.”
State-run media outlets have also criticized the Chinese leadership’s pandemic response. For example, Shangguan News urged all levels of Shanghai officials to come forward with their concerns and help “solve problems” for people. The media outlet published the message with the headline stating there is no reason for leaders to “delay or dodge.”
In southern Shanghai, Ningbo residents have been ordered to produce a negative COVID-19 test result every 48 hours. Otherwise, they will be banned from using public transport or entering public venues.
Beijing authorities have imposed frequent testing on more than 20 million residents across at least 12 districts. Shopping malls, restaurants, entertainment venues, schools, and libraries remain closed.
Authorities claim regular testing will accelerate the diagnosis and quarantine process. This is promised to minimize the need for widespread lockdowns in the future.
Loudspeakers frequently play looping reminders that Beijing residents should be tested at a large Chaoyang compound and other locations. Workplaces and other venues also require everyone to produce a recent negative result before entering.
Shanghai has performed more than 63 million polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests and 126 million rapid antigen tests. City officials promised to conduct daily screening and construct thousands more permanent PCR testing stations.
Mainland China reported nearly 370 symptomatic infections and 5,647 asymptomatic cases. Seventy-four percent of symptomatic cases and 95.5% of asymptomatic patients are based in Shanghai.
Authorities blame the low vaccination rate among the country’s elderly for the jump in infections. In Shanghai, 62% of residents over the age of 60 are fully vaccinated, and only 15% of those over 80 have received both jabs. The average age of death is 84, according to Bloomberg.
Former state-run media personality Hu Xijin claimed an elderly man recently misdiagnosed as dead had “nothing to do” with the CCP virus, negligence, or irresponsibility. Instead, the responsible aged care facility severely neglected its duty of care to residents, and this failure almost resulted in actual death.
Economy feels pinch
Restrictions have also severely impacted the national economy. Export growth is the weakest in almost two years, and the Renminbi currency plunged against the U.S. dollar to the lowest levels seen in nearly 19 months.
China Association of Automobile Manufacturers revealed vehicle sales dropped 48 percent year on year due to factory closures and falling consumer demand. The People’s Bank of China is widely expected to ramp up economic support measures.
Shanghai Municipal Government defended its zero-tolerance for the ill. It also claimed each district is responsible for increasing pandemic restrictions according to local circumstances.
“[We] must insist on regulating the flow and control of the movement of people,” a representative said according to Reuters.
In March, national unemployment was 5.8%, representing the highest level since May 2020. More than 30 major cities have reported a record 6% jobless rate.
State Council Premier Li Keqiang and other high-ranking politicians promised to support as “many employers as possible” to avoid further pandemic-related job losses.
‘Stop asking me why’
Some Chinese frontline workers have faced mounting criticism for inadequately explaining how suspects allegedly broke so-called movement curbs.
One video shared on social media shows police wearing hazardous material suits. Officers ordered residents to quarantine after one neighbor became infected. Other districts direct residents to return home despite previously permitting them to go for a walk or go shopping due to dwindling infection numbers. These measures are expected to remain in place for most of the month.
“This is so that we can thoroughly remove any positive cases,” one of the officers said.
However, when some residents began questioning the police’s direction, officers refused to explain why isolation was necessary.
“Stop asking me why, there is no why [and] we have to adhere to national guidelines,” the officer said.
A different video shows security guards wearing hazardous material suits. They failed to stop dozens of workers trying to flee Apple Incorporated and Tesla supplier Quanta. The group fears being transported to quarantine centers because a colleague tested positive. Such centers are infamously fitted with few showers and lack basic necessities.
More footage seemingly depicts a police officer forcibly opening a locked door because the resident refused to allow their entry. Another recording shows officials arguing with a woman who refuses to let them spray disinfectant in her home. The woman had already tested negative for the CCP virus.
The East China University of Political Science and Law professor Tong Zhiwei believes breaking and entering private property and forcibly disinfecting homes are illegal even in mainland China.
Authorities have censored and blocked both Tong and outspoken financial lawyer Liu Dali on the Chinese social network Weibo.
A group of Shanghai residents strongly question the legality of extreme tactics from police and security officers.
“Not once have I heard that if one compound or one block or residential building has a single confirmed case, then hardline measures of locking up people like criminals are needed,” one anonymous resident told the newswire agency.
Others are still concerned about running out of food and other basic necessities in Beijing’s Changping district.
“I have already been working from home, but I am worried I might run out of daily supplies,” said a 28-year-old known only as Wang.
Shanghai-based noodle shop owner Dan Dan described the CCP’s harsh restrictions as brutal.
“Just received notice our compound will go ‘silent’ for next three days, meaning no deliveries–everyone [is] locked in,” he said on Twitter.
“State sanctioned cruelty is staggering, [they] lock everyone in for months and then deny even basic necessities–politics and zero COVID trump all, even hunger,” he added.
The remarks sharply contrast with CCP’s promises to reopen the Paris of the East shortly.
The World Health Organization (WHO) strongly criticized the CCP’s extended lockdown that began in late March.
“When we talk about the zero-COVID strategy we do not think that it is sustainable considering the behavior of the virus now and what we anticipate in the future, especially when we have now a good knowledge [and] understanding of the virus,” director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said in a statement.
“We have discussed this issue with Chinese experts and we indicated that the approach will not be sustainable,” he added.
Ghebreyesus predicts Beijing will eventually have to reopen to the rest of the world and learn to live with the virus.
“Considering the behavior of the virus, I think a shift will be very important,” he said.
“The virus is evolving, changing its behaviors, becoming more transmissible and with that changing behavior, changing your measures will be very important … [and] transiting into another strategy will be very important.”
WHO COVID-19 technical lead Maria Van Kerkhove doubts that the CCP’s zero-COVID policy will contain the constantly mutating virus.
“From China’s perspective, this dynamic zero or dynamic COVID policy that they are following is their attempt to try to control transmission of COVID-19,” she said in the same statement.
“As this virus evolves the latest variants that we have, the Omicron variants and all the sub lineages are more transmissible than the last variant that is circulating, and … there will be more variants of SARS-CoV-2 because the virus is circulating at such an intense level,” she added.
Kerkhove stressed that the CCP would never find every infected individual and completely prevent the disease from spreading.
“Our goal at a global level is not to find all cases and stop all transmissions—it is really not possible at this present time,” she said.
She believes the Chinese regime should focus more on reducing the chance of “severe disease.” Recommended strategies include vaccination, early clinical care, improving access to healthcare, and training doctors and nurses in “appropriate” infection prevention and control.
“We can reduce morbidity and mortality, and the long-term consequences of COVID-19,” she said.
“What we need to do is drive transmission down because the virus is circulating at such an intense level,” she added.
Coworker Mike Ryan completely agreed with his colleagues. The health emergencies program executive director believes the CCP’s zero-COVID plan will fail to achieve its objective and even cause widespread suffering.
“One of our problems, if we go back to the beginning of this pandemic, was a lack of agility in many places resulted in a lot of harm,” he said.
“I am in total agreement with Dr Tedros you need dynamic and adjustable, agile policy.”
Xi Jinping lately warned there would be dire consequences for those who criticize harsh pandemic restrictions.
The top Chinese leader insisted on “unswervingly” adhering to his “dynamic” zero-COVID policy. He also vowed to “resolutely fight” against any official or voter who allegedly misrepresents, questions, or refutes disease prevention measures.
The politburo standing committee confirmed Xi’s refusal to back down accurately reflects the CCP’s “nature and mission.” According to CNN, a strict party policy is promised to stand the “test of history” through science and performance.
The committee recently declared victory in the battle to “defend” Wuhan city, widely believed to be the pandemic’s origin. Members hope the disease will be defeated in Shanghai too.
CCP members have been ordered to familiarize themselves with party policy, especially those governing the pandemic response. This will help overcome “contempt, indifference, and self-righteousness” in their thinking.
‘Path struggle’ in party
Analysts suspect the remarks targeted widespread CCP opposition to the zero-COVID policy.
“This language should be read as a direct criticism of unspecified local CCP leaders who have questioned the policies at the center, or who have been insufficiently successful in applying them,” China Media Project director David Bandurski said in a statement.
“It is difficult not to hear in this phrase about ‘self-righteousness’ condemnation of leaders in Shanghai, in particular,” he added.
Beijing political analyst Wu Qiang recognizes an internal “path struggle” within the CCP’s ranks.
“Firstly, it is a struggle over whether it should choose ‘dynamic zero-COVID’ or a more flexible approach to fight COVID and, secondly, it is also a struggle over whether to make COVID control or economic growth the priority,” he said, according to CNN.
“Zero-COVID has become an unquestionable, unchallengeable policy that is closely tied to his political authority–and therefore there will be no flexibility when it comes to its implementation,” he added.