Shanghai began to release the number of deaths among its COVID-19 patients while the strict lockdown continues. Reuters reported that the official data released since April 17 shows a sudden increase in deaths. However, the reliability of those figures is questioned, as they remain far lower than elsewhere.

Recently, the Jiading District Funeral Home in Shanghai has accidentally revealed its struggle to deal with a surging number of corpses.

An article titled “After the Shanghai Funeral Home Incident: If Both Parties Are Dissatisfied, Where Is The Problem?” posted on the mainland’s NetEase News website reads, “From April 1, all funeral home staff have to work 24 hours and haven’t come home. Every day until midnight [they have to] cremate corpses. The death toll was twice as high as that of the same period last year. To maintain and ensure the normal operation of the city, it [the facility] was completely overworked”. The authorities later removed this article.

On April 25, Radio Free Asia also reported that staff at Shanghai Longhua Funeral Home said their workload had increased compared to before, without providing specific details. These staff said the number of cremated corpses was growing, and people had to wait for the epidemic to end before receiving their loved one’s urns.

A week earlier, another Long Hoa Funeral Home employee told Radio Free Asia that their workload had increased significantly during the current outbreak.

Shanghai has a total of 15 funeral homes, and it’s not possible to know what the situation is in the other ones. However, these first-hand revelations make observers wonder, in the end, how many deaths are there in Shanghai during the lockdown? 

According to Reuters, Shanghai had reported no COVID-19 deaths for more than a month after the latest outbreak began in early March. But deaths suddenly started to creep up over the last two weeks of April. As of April 28, the city has reported nearly 300 COVID-related fatalities from more than 500,000 confirmed cases.

Shanghai numbers surprise international observers because they show a far lower death rate than elsewhere and an unusually high proportion of asymptomatic cases confirmed. 

Take Hong Kong, for example. Since February, the special administrative region has recorded more than 9,000 COVID-19 deaths, with around 1.2 million confirmed infections. 

Some experts say Shanghai’s low death count is part of the under-reporting approach frequently used by the Chinese regime.

How many people have died this time to make the funeral home operate at such an increased capacity? While official statistics reported that since the lockdown started on March 28 to April 21, there were 36 local deaths due to the epidemic, the funeral home staff affirms they have increased their workload significantly during the last 20 days. 

According to a Twitter user, Shanghai’s annual mortality rate stands at 0,55%. Considering the city has a population of 26 million people, the average daily death rate is 397. If funeral houses have doubled the number of cremated bodies, the number of dying people is very large. 

Many turn to social media to express their sorrow and outrage to denounce the nightmare they are living in due to the city-wide lockdown. 

Residents have witnessed several tragic deaths. Mr. Zheng, a Shanghai resident, shared with Radio Free Asia that he had seen a case of an entire family of four that desperately jumped to their death because they were running out of food.

On a Twitter post, a 45-year-old woman in building 5, Pudong Avenue, Shanghai, jumped to her death because she was sick and could not go to the hospital for treatment. 

Another online video shows a man hanging himself from a tree in a residential area in Shanghai. 

According to Radio Free Asia, fenced-in people in various districts have been protesting against the lockdown and difficulties in obtaining provisions by banging on pots and pans in the evenings. A man even used a light to shine the words “We need supply” on the outside wall of his building.

Before that, posters from many apartment complexes circulated online, calling for people to take part in the pot-banging action. The illustrations, colors, and slogans of many of the posters mimic the propaganda style of the Chinese Communist Party when inciting “making revolution” in its early years. For example, the poster below has the slogans: “We want to eat rice,” “Hurry with supplies! We want to live!”

There are also posters subtly calling for apartment dwellers to participate in a “music festival” with pot-banging and shouting on their balconies.

This organized protest has made Chinese officials wary. Online video shows community officials that played loudspeakers in the evening to say this was an action “incited by a foreign force” to threaten people not to participate.

Under this pressure and despite the people’s suffering, the Shanghai government once again blamed “foreign forces.” Some residential committees have posted notices in chat groups or played recordings through loudspeakers in residences, saying that “foreign forces are inciting the Chinese people to knock on the pot during demonstrations or concerts.” Adding, this is a conspiracy of foreign powers.

In 2014, economic and political scholar He Qinglian concluded in an article on VOA that the term “foreign power” corresponds to a political shadow. Whenever China enters a period of turmoil, that phrase wanders around China as the only CCP narrative. 

The specific term for “foreign powers” has changed according to the needs. Initially, it was “imperialism and its minions,” later called “hostile foreign forces.” The CCP has become more global in recent years, so the eye-catching word “hostile” has been omitted. Sometimes “external force” is also used.

He Qinglian explained that this phrase has become the source of China’s problems and disasters. 

Amid widespread resentment among Shanghai citizens against the CCP lockdown, a Chinese rapper has released a song concerning the people’s suffering and the extreme COVID measures.

The rap song named “New slaves,” composed by rapper Fang Lue has become widely popular online.

Here’s a part of the song

“Some people solely scream because they want to have food
But were locked up and [had to] eat in prison for a few days
Some people with serious illnesses died tragically outside the hospital gate
Just because they didn’t do a nucleic acid test, they couldn’t go inside the hospital

“They [the government] basically don’t care if you live or die
They only care about their GDP and political achievements
If you wear a white hazmat suit, you can treat others violently
Neighborhood and community managers can deprive citizens’ rights and freedoms.”

By rapper Fang Lue

The rapper said: “I wrote this song because I saw people are dying… and I felt deeply saddened. It all comes from my love for all.”

Shanghai’s heavy-handed lockdown is also pushing foreign residents to rethink their future plans in the metropolis.

Jennifer Li, a foreigner who is planning to leave the city, told Reuters, “Until the lockdown I really couldn’t feel the authoritarian government, because you’re more or less free to do what you want and I never really lived oppressed.”

Ms. Li, who has settled in Shanghai for 11 years, added: The COVID handling “made us realize how human lives and human mental health are not important to this government.” 

In April, the American Chamber of Commerce survey found that 44.3% of respondents said they would lose expatriate staff if the current COVID restrictions remained in place for the following year.

According to Reuters, some people who managed to leave the city share how difficult it is to reach the airport, from paying $500 for a cab that usually costs $30, battling neighborhood workers who block departures, to being stranded at the airport after abruptly canceled flights.

One described how she and her five-month-old daughter spent nearly a week sleeping on the floor of Pudong Airport, running out of food because some documentation issues deterred them from boarding the plane. The lockdown has shuttered visa offices and many administrative offices in the city.

The woman said she did not have plans to return to Shanghai. 

Meanwhile, the situation in Beijing is equally dire. Recently, the number of COVID-19 infections in Beijing has increased rapidly. Many people have been arrested for publicly criticizing the government or reposting online news that does not follow the CCP’s propaganda.

Radio Free Asia mentioned Beijing Police said on Thursday, April 28, that authorities had arrested 52 people last week for allegedly spreading rumors about the blockade or spreading false information.

Pan Xuhong, deputy director of the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau, said that, since April 22, a total of 40 related cases have been handled, with 48 people held in administrative detention and four held in custody. 

Mr. Pan said two cases involved “spreading false information and fabricating rumors that can cause fear.” A 33-year-old man named Zhang Moumou has been accused of intentionally spreading “false information” on social media saying that Beijing would lockdown the city on April 28. The police later detained him. The other, a 48-year-old named Wang, was accused of “spreading false information about a possible lockdown, causing a negative impact on society.”

Ms. Liu, a Beijing resident, said on April 29 that, in China, a lot of news posted by netizens is often thought of as rumors but then turns out to be true. For example, one netizen said that Shanghai would be locked down quickly and was detained by the police, but the metropolis was actually blocked not long after.

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