The Straits Times reported on December 6 that while the government is hesitantly loosening pandemic control measures, some Beijing residents are defying strict curbs in different ways. They include dining in underground restaurants, striking in secretive bars spread by word of mouth, and concealing their Covid-19 symptoms.

China’s virus response is reaching a turning point after sticking to tough regulations that initially contained outbreaks successfully but inflamed massive public resentment.

As state media downplay the risks of the virus, various cities, including Beijing, have started to loosen testing rules in the wake of the nation’s greatest protests in decades.

That relaxation has given some residents the confidence to break the rule. Particularly, on social media, reports of restaurants and cafes providing dine-in services, which are illegal in much of the capital, have generated hundreds of likes.

One resident who visited a clandestine hotpot restaurant said, “It was quite secretive, you couldn’t see the lights on the second floor from the outside.” 

While looking for indoor dining options in Beijing on Xiaohongshu, China’s version of Instagram, she came upon a boiling stew seller, complaining that it was “full” of people.

She commented, “I was very happy to eat out, but at the same time I felt like I had to fight an underground battle.”

Recalling a mutton stew and skewers at a different underground restaurant, one ex-pat said, “The staff weren’t going to let me in and said they were only doing takeout.”

He added, “But when I said friends were already upstairs, they winked and told me to scan my QR code.”

Another Beijing ex-pat said he attended a World Cup screening at a shuttered nightclub where people are only accepted by word of mouth.

He saw unmasked spectators quietly watching the game inside the nightclub after a labyrinthine journey through a nearby hotel and parking lot to reach the place.

He said, “It was so surreal to jump through all of these hoops.”

Regarding lockdowns, one Beijing food blogger who recently posted about visiting a secretly open bar said they were fed up with the situation.

She said, “I really can’t stand it anymore, I hope they reopen as soon as possible.” 

Citizens tend to refuse to take a PCR test, even when they suffer from fever and a cough. This is because it may lead them to get isolated or taken to central quarantine.

One citizen said, “I know Covid-19 positive people can quarantine at home now, I don’t want the government to know if I get Covid-19 or not.”

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