China zero-Covid: Anger grows in politics, but Beijing refuses to change course

China zero-Covid: Anger grows in politics, but Beijing refuses to change course
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A young woman stands on her balcony, screaming in desperation after being ordered to close her building.

Fighting back tears, he berates the following hazmat-suit workers in a video recently shared on the social media platform Weibo that captures the Chinese public’s growing frustration with their governments uncompromising zero-Covid policy.

After returning from university in the summer, the woman is in quarantine for half a year, shouting at the workers. They seem to stare back without moving.

While most Asian economies – even those with previously strict zero-Covid stances – are opting out limitations of the pandemic periodOfficials in China are bracing themselves, repeatedly insisting in state media articles this week that the fight against the virus is “winnable.”

The claim comes even as infections flare up and a new strain spreads just days before the country’s largest outbreak. is an important political eventXi Jinping is expected to cement his place as the country’s most powerful leader in decades at the Communist Party Congress, which begins in Beijing on Sunday.

Observers around the world will be watching the bi-decade meeting for signs of the party’s priorities when it comes to its zero-Covid stance, which has been blamed for exacerbating growing problems in the party. economy, from stagnant growth to a collapsing housing market.

Tempers are running high in China’s capital, where photos posted online on Thursday show an extraordinary scene A rare popular protest against Xi. “Say no to the Covid test, say yes to the food. No to bondage, yes to freedom. No to lies, yes to dignity. No to cultural revolution, yes to reform. No to a great leader, yes to voting. Don’t be a slave, be a citizen,” read one of the banners hanging over the overpass despite the heightened security surrounding the Congress.

“Put out the dictator and national traitor Xi Jinping,” read another.

The protest puts China’s strict online censorship into overdrive.

Weibo, a Twitter-like platform, immediately censored search results for “Sitong Bridge,” the site of the protest. Before long, searches were limited to keywords such as “Beijing”, “Haidian”, “warrior”, “brave man” and even “courage”.

Multiple accounts on Weibo and WeChat, the super apps essential to daily life in China, were banned after commenting on or hinting at the protest.

However, many have come forward to express their support and fears. Some shared the Chinese pop hit “Lonely Warrior” in a veiled reference to the protester, whom some called a “hero,” while others tweeted “I saw it,” vowing to never forget it.

However, even in the face of growing public discontent, all indications are that Xi and his party plan to stick to a zero-Covid approach. It could be by 2023with state media articles this week serving to dampen speculation that the country might change course after Congress.

More 300 million people According to CNN’s count, dozens of Chinese cities were affected by full or partial lockdowns at some point last month.

But even as restrictions are lifted and enforced in response to local Covid outbreaks, the virus just keeps re-emerging.

New incidents reported across the country this week suggest that more misery may be on the way for Chinese citizens like the woman in the Weibo video, exhausted by the seemingly endless lockdown period.

On Thursday, China’s Health Commission reported 1,476 locally transmitted cases of Covid-19 nationwide, a significant number in a country where even one infection can lead to city-wide shutdowns.

Hegang, a city in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang, with 900,000 residents has been locked down since Friday after a case was discovered.

25 million people in Shanghai have already endured for two months the toughest in the world The lockdown, which residents now face, faces any sign of a repeat as authorities begin to tighten measures again.

A worker wearing protective clothing crosses a road near an area locked down due to Covid-19 in Beijing, China on October 12, 2022.

The city reported 47 Covid-19 cases on Thursday, a day after authorities ordered six of its 13 districts to close entertainment venues such as internet cafes, cinemas and bars. The Shanghai Disney resort has suspended some attractions and live performances since Sunday.

Fearing the possibility of an unexpected and unannounced shutdown – and given that authorities have backed off after previously suggesting such measures were not forthcoming – some people in the city are reportedly hoarding drinking water.

That panic buying worsened in September, when Shanghai’s water authorities announced action to ensure water quality after discovering saltwater flows into two reservoirs at the mouth of the Yangtze River.

It is not clear what is causing the spike in infections, although authorities are trying to contain the spread of the BF.7 coronavirus strain after it was first detected in China in late September in Hohhot, the capital of Inner Mongolia.

Despite severe restrictions in the country, which discourage people from traveling or spending money, local tourism destinations have seen an increase in business. Chinese Golden Week holiday in early October.

Hohhot recorded 329 cases on Thursday, according to the National Health Commission, which now considers the remote region a high-risk hotspot.

According to Zhang Xiaoying, deputy director of the regional Department of Education, more than 240,000 university students in Inner Mongolia have been locked down on campuses due to the latest outbreak. A campus outbreak led to punitive measures, with the head of a university’s Communist Party fired after 39 students from his institution tested positive.

Then there is the situation in some far western Xinjiang 22 million people they were forbidden to leave the region and asked to stay at home. According to official information, 403 new cases were registered in Xinjiang on Thursday.

Despite all this, Beijing does not want to back down from its tough stance. For three days this week, the People’s Daily, the mouthpiece of the state-run Communist Party, published comments reiterating that China would not lower its reserves.

“Sleeping straight is not recommended,” he said in a third comment on Wednesday, referring to a self-satisfied Chinese expression.

The battle against Covid could be won, he insisted. Other countries that have reopened and eased restrictions have done so because they had no choice, because they “couldn’t manage the epidemic effectively in time”.

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