China zero-Covid: Anger against politics is rising, but Beijing refuses to change course
A young woman stands on her balcony, screaming in despair after her building was ordered into lockdown.
Fighting back tears, she shouts swear words at workers in hazmat suits below in a video that recently went viral on social media platform Weibo and appears to encapsulate the Chinese public’s growing frustration with the no-nonsense policy. compromise of their government.
The woman has been in quarantine for six months since returning from college this summer, she shouts at the workers. They look back, seemingly indifferent.
As most Asian economies – even those that previously had hardline stances on zero Covid – are shedding pandemic-era restrictions, Chinese authorities remain zealous in theirs, repeatedly insisting in articles this week public media that the battle against the virus remains « winnable ». ”
The claim comes even as infections flare and a new strain circulates days before the country’s most important political event, the Communist Party Congress which kicks off in Beijing on Sunday, at which Xi Jinping is expected to cement his place as leader. the country’s most powerful leader for decades.
Observers around the world will be watching the twice-a-decade meeting for signs of the party’s priorities for its zero-Covid stance, which has been blamed for exacerbating growing problems in the economy, from growth to the point death to the collapse of the housing market.
Nerves are on edge in the Chinese capital, where online photos released Thursday appeared to show an exceptionally rare public protest against Xi. “Say no to the Covid test, yes to the food. No to confinement, yes to freedom. No to lies, yes to dignity. No to cultural revolution, yes to reform. No to the great leader, yes to the vote. Don’t be a slave, be a citizen,” reads a banner hung above an overpass despite heightened security surrounding Congress.
Yet all signs are that even in the face of growing public discontent, Xi and his party plan to stick to the zero-Covid approach, possibly until 2023, state media reports this week serving to dampen speculation that the country could change course. -Congress.
More than 300 million people in dozens of cities across China were affected by full or partial shutdowns at some point last month, according to CNN calculations.
But as restrictions are lifted and imposed in response to local Covid outbreaks, the virus keeps popping up.
And new outbreaks reported across the country this week suggest more misery could be on the way for Chinese citizens – like the woman in the Weibo video – who are exhausted by a seemingly endless cycle of lockdowns.
China’s Health Commission on Thursday reported 1,476 locally transmitted Covid-19 cases nationwide, a significant number in a country where even one infection can trigger a citywide lockdown.
In the northeastern province of Heilongjiang, 900,000 residents of the city of Hegang have been locked down since Friday after the discovery of a single case.
In Shanghai, where 25 million people have already endured two months of the world’s strictest lockdown, residents are now on the lookout for any signs of a repeat as authorities begin to tighten measures again.
The city reported 47 cases of Covid-19 on Thursday, a day after authorities ordered six of its 13 districts to close entertainment venues such as internet cafes, movie theaters and bars. The Disney resort in Shanghai has suspended some of its attractions and live performances since Sunday.
Frightened by the possibility of unpredictable and unexpected instantaneous lockdowns – and aware that authorities have already backtracked after suggesting no such measure was forthcoming – some people in the city are said to have hoarded drinking water.
This panic buying was compounded by an announcement that Shanghai water authorities have taken action to ensure water quality after discovering salt water inlets in two reservoirs at the mouth of the river. Yangtze in September.
The exact cause of the rise in infections is unclear, although authorities are scrambling to contain the spread of the BF.7 coronavirus strain after it was first detected in China in late September in Mongolia’s capital Hohhot interior.
The country has also seen a surge in cases at domestic tourist destinations, despite its strict restrictions having discouraged people from traveling or spending during China’s Golden Week holiday in early October.
Hohhot recorded 329 cases on Thursday, according to the National Health Commission, which now considers the remote area a high-risk hotspot.
More than 240,000 university students in Inner Mongolia have been locked down on campuses due to the latest outbreak, according to Zhang Xiaoying, deputy director of the regional education department. And the outbreak on campus has led to punitive measures, with a Communist Party boss at a university sacked after 39 students at his institution tested positive.
Then there is the situation in far western Xinjiang, where some 22 million people have been banned from leaving the region and are told to stay at home. Xinjiang registered 403 new cases on Thursday, according to an official tally.
Yet amidst it all, Beijing seems unwilling to let go of its tough stance. For three days this week, the People’s Daily, mouthpiece of the Communist Party, published comments reiterating that China would not lower its guard.
« Lying flat is not advised, » he said in his third comment on Wednesday, referring to a Chinese phrase that denotes complacency.
The battle against Covid was winnable, he insisted. Other countries that had reopened and eased restrictions had done so because they had no choice, he said, as they had failed to « effectively control the outbreak in a timely manner. « .