While China is frantically adapting to Beijing’s pandemic switch, university students are on the country’s streets again.

According to Xin Tan Ren, rallies burst out around the evening of December 12 in at least six universities in China’s Fujian, Jiangxi, Jiangsu, Sichuan, and Yunnan provinces . Participating in the demonstrations this time are medical students. Despite coming from different areas, the crowds echoed a common phrase.

The report said graduate students were ordered to work as front-line staffers to treat COVID-positive patients. However, as was the case for Xuzhou 徐州 Medical University students, they were not given proper protection, not even masks. As a result, several contracted the virus and were sent to quarantine. More to their frustration, the school took it as an opportunity to deduct their payment. 

Another reason is that some schools have kept students from returning home, and they have marched down the street to demand release. 

In Sichuan North Medical College, undergraduate students demanded to be allowed home, whereas their graduate peers called for fair payment and denounced exploitation. 

At a university in Fuzhou city, the capital of Fujian province, an uproar ensued over the school’s conflicting messages about the class suspension. According to an online screenshot, students were told to begin studying online starting December 12. However, seven minutes later, it adjusted the teaching schedule to continue as usual. Reportedly, students were later allowed to go home early after the protest.

On the night of December 12, Nanjing Medical University allowed students to return to their hometowns. However, it intends to resolve the payment issue by forwarding it to the Ministry of Education.

The protests reflect an unprepared China when it exits the “zero-COVID” era. There have been doubts that its healthcare system would be well-equipped to handle the expected influx of new cases as restraining methods loosen.

An eye surgeon in Beijing, identified as Yan, told the Washington Post, “Hospitals bore the brunt of ‘zero-COVID’ and are now overwhelmed by an unprecedented outbreak.’”

She said more than half of the employees in her hospital had contracted coronavirus in the past week. In terms of fever clinics, she said the number of visiting patients had soared substantially since then. She expected the situation might persist for weeks or even months.

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