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Wednesday, May 25, 2022
HomeLatest NewsShanghai residents rebel against 'COVID zero' tough restrictions

Shanghai residents rebel against ‘COVID zero’ tough restrictions

Tensions between Shanghai residents and the authorities responsible for enforcing measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic are rising again. This comes in a context where restrictions have been tightened again to contain the spread of infection outside of quarantine zones and thus fulfill President Xi Jinping’s request for a “COVID zero” policy.

Videos posted on Chinese social media platforms show suspected positive patients being forced to quarantine in designated quarantine facilities. In some areas, one positive case can send everyone in the building into quarantine.

Many of these videos were removed by online censors, but determined citizens continued to post them. Speeches by high-ranking officials and lawyers, in which they talk about the importance of the rule of law, are also uploaded again. Social media users shared these views to express their disapproval of the government’s policies.

Xi confirmed last week that his government has no intention of abandoning the controversial “COVID Zero” policy. He said this in an important speech addressed to the country’s high command. He urged officials to “adhere uncompromisingly to this policy and warned that he was unwilling to tolerate criticism or questions.

“No reason”

Over the weekend, residents in at least four of Shanghai’s 16 districts reported receiving notifications that they would no longer be able to receive food delivery or leave their homes, prompting numerous complaints on social media.

“We are no longer afraid of the virus itself, but we are horrified by the way the government is imposing measures,” a Shanghai resident, who requested anonymity, told The Guardian. “We thought the conclusion was coming to an end, but we don’t see the end anymore.”

Several videos have been posted on social media in recent days showing healthcare workers, also called Dabai, or “Great Whites” because of their hazmat suits, entering neighbors’ homes and throwing disinfectant everywhere. The measure angered many residents, who questioned its legality. Others wonder if this has any scientific basis.

In a video that has gone viral, police officers dressed in protective gear order residents to quarantine at the center after a neighbor tested positive. “You can’t do whatever you want if you’re not in the United States. You are in China,” says one of the agents. “Stop asking me why, why not. We have to follow the rules.” The Guardian does not know the identity of the neighbors and does not know if they were transferred to the centre.

The faces and voices of the Shanghai Covid Police, spraying disinfectant from time to time. Seriously, intermittent injection only costs 4+ minutes

— Bill Bishop (@niubi) May 7, 2022

Not all Shanghainese followed the rules. In another video, a neighbor addresses health officials and asks them to abide by the law. A middle-aged man wearing a red hazmat suit with a mask and face shield reminds them that the power of government officials has limits and that they cannot violate the rights of citizens.

“Let me tell you,” the man says, “that you can only use your power in accordance with the law. You have to tell me what articles of our country’s legislation allow you to impose your criteria … you cannot impose a quarantine on us.

This is not the first time that the implementation of measures to eradicate the pandemic has caused tension in Shanghai, home to 25 million people and a key financial center in Asia. In April, residents of Pudong, the eastern part of the city, clashed with police in hazmat suits who forced them to abandon their homes to be turned into quarantine centers.

legal disaster

Lawyers expressed concern about the excesses of measures to contain the pandemic. On Sunday, a letter went viral calling on the government to respect the country’s constitution. The censors repeatedly removed it, but many users reposted it. The letter’s lead author, Professor Tong Zhiwei of Shanghai East China University of Political Science and Law, says the restrictions and how authorities enforce them could lead to “some kind of legal disaster.”

“Measures to prevent a pandemic must be balanced with ensuring the rights and freedoms of people,” writes Tong. “Local governments and officials must abide by the Constitution and laws and cannot undermine the rule of law at their discretion.”

Gobin Yang, a sociologist at the University of Pennsylvania and author of Wuhan Lockdown, says that “as seen from Wuhan in 2020, when the virus emerged, citizens were protesting the government’s forced lockdowns. Shanghai has taken this momentum to a new level, but we still don’t know how the government will react.”

Shanghai is in its sixth week of lockdown. According to local health authorities, the number of cases has decreased. This Thursday, Shanghai reported 227 local cases of COVID-19 infection, 1,869 asymptomatic local infections and two deaths in the previous 24 hours.

Shanghai is not the only city subject to some kind of restrictions. In Beijing, where the number of daily cases is currently much lower than in Shanghai, the government has asked citizens to work remotely. Dozens of bus routes and almost 15% of the sprawling subway system in the Chinese capital have been suspended.

Translated by Emma Reverter


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