“Fight against any speech that distorts, questions, or rejects our country’s COVID-control policy,” said Xi on Thursday, sending a warning to many local CCP leaders who questioned Beijing’s policy. From an aged resident who was wrongly declared dead to people being dragged into isolation, the situation in China continues to worsen. This week, in Chinese Vignettes, we cover all the top stories making headlines in China.
Covid continues to extend lockdown in China
Across China, an estimated 340 million people residing in at least 46 cities continue to be locked-down. While Shanghai’s weeks-long lockdown continues to extend with no end in sight, the capital Beijing is shutting down schools and public transport.
This week, China reported more than 45,000 new cases and more than 150 deaths.
Shanghai authorities have indicated that the lockdown will be lifted once the community transmission reaches zero, reported Bloomberg. At a briefing on May 2, the officials said in the city of about 25 million, around 2.54 million residents continue to be under strict lockdown, and through May 7, the city will continue mass testing.
The South China Morning Post reported that the push for mass testing across China could cost the country around 1.7 trillion yuan (US $257 billion), which would be around 1.5 per cent of China’s 2021 GDP.
And these additional costs could further pressurise China’s already strained economy.
Top US health advisor Dr. Anthony Fauci criticised China’s zero-COVID approach this week. Speaking to a German talk show, he said the ‘lockdowns are unlikely to be successful in the long-term because the government isn’t using the time to boost vaccination rates among the highest-risk elderly, and the shots they are delivering are less effective,’ reported Bloomberg.
‘Lockdowns must be used to prepare the population to prevent the future spread of infection,’ he added on the Maischberger show.
This statement comes at a time when US President Joe Biden accused Beijing of trying to interfere with the competition bill, that would bolster the US’ domestic semiconductor manufacturing.
“Fundamentally, this is a national security issue. This is one of the reasons why the Chinese Communist Party is lobbying folks to oppose this bill,” said Biden on Tuesday.
Public outcry and censorship are on the rise too
Across China, an estimated 340 million people residing in at least 46 cities continue to be locked-down. Public discontent is only growing, and so is the censorship.
In the financial capital Shanghai, residents banging pots and pans protesting the weeks-long lockdown and flying drones urging them to “control your soul’s desire for freedom” have become a familiar scene.
This week, an aged Shanghai resident was ‘mistakenly’ declared dead and taken to the morgue in a bag. A video, posted earlier this week, shows white hazmat suit clad workers looking into the body bag and realising that the elderly man was alive.
“Alive! Did you see that? Alive!” one of the workers can be heard saying.
The person filming can be heard voicing his opinion, “The nursing home is such a mess. They put a living person on a hearse and said they were dead. The undertaker’s staff said they were still moving… It is irresponsible, really irresponsible.”
Chinese netizens expressed disbelief and outrage over such a grave mistake.
“The problems in Shanghai are fully exposed this time,” said a top comment on Twitter-like Weibo. “This counts as intentional homicide,” said another.
Questioning the lack of reaction from Beijing, one user said, “The government doesn’t care … what is going on in Shanghai?”
On Monday, the Putuo district government responded to the incident, saying that the aged man was now in stable condition and that three officials from the civil affairs bureau and social development office, as well as the head of the nursing room, had been removed.
The state-run Global Times said the authorities had revoked the certification of the doctor who was involved in the incident.
Another video of people being dragged from their homes to quarantine centres has also gone viral on Chinese social media. However, a few hours later, these videos were deleted from some platforms. Social media posts questioning China’s zero-COVID policy also appear to be removed.
On Thursday, Chinese President Xi Jinping spoke about China’s handling of the COVID crisis in Shanghai and issued a strong warning against anyone who attempts to “fight against any words and acts that distort, doubt, or deny our country’s epidemic prevention policies,” and vowed to “unswervingly adhere to the general policy of ‘dynamic zero-Covid.’
The seven-member committee demanded the cadres to have a “profound, complete, and comprehensive understanding” of the policy set by the center so as to “resolutely overcome the problems of inadequate awareness, inadequate preparation, and insufficient work, and resolutely overcome contempt, indifference, and self-righteousness in our thinking.”
According to analysts, this stern warning was a sign of a pushback from within the party.
“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,” CNN quoted David Bandurski, co-director of the China Media Project.
Censorship continues in other arenas too
According to reports, the producers of Marvel’s Spider Man: No Way Home were asked to remove a scene featuring the State of Liberty.
However, Sony rejected the demand. No Way Home, which broke all records in North America, never received a release date in China, effectively banning it in the country.
The Daily Mail reported that the latest Marvel movie, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, too, has been banned from the theatres there.
‘Officially, the Communist Party only allows 34 foreign films per theatrical release each year–but a harsh crackdown in 2021 made it harder than ever to secure Chinese release for big US blockbusters,’ the report added.