Shanghai has been under lockdown for more than a month. Videos circulating on the Internet show that frontline epidemic prevention workers have unlimited power over Shanghai citizens. They vandalize citizens’ property, beat people, and even treat the elderly and children violently. Videos and images on social media have shown a glimpse into the rising discontent over China’s rigid virus response.

Wu Qiang, an independent Chinese political analyst, told the Chinese version of The Deutsche Welle (DW): “The current situation in Shanghai is that people in white hazmat suits take over the whole city, and the streets are occupied by these people. Putting on white hazmat suits, these people can arbitrarily trample on the dignity of the citizens and infringe on the rights of others. Without declaring a state of emergency, they used outlaw(ed) methods, put on safety suits and enforced the law, and arbitrarily restrict people’s freedom of movement”.

He also told the English version of The Deutscher Welle that, “The lockdown in Shanghai has given the middle class a glimpse of the totalitarian system that is going to be strengthened after the Chinese Communist Party’s 20th National Congress this autumn, during which President Xi Jinping is expected to seek his third term.”

People wearing hazmat suits, also called “Dabai” or “Big Whites,” could be professional medical personnel, firefighters, public safety officers, neighborhood committee officers, community workers, volunteers, or even temporarily recruited people. The CCP’s extreme epidemic prevention and control policy has caused many human tragedies (with the help of this powerful law enforcement force – people who wear white hazmat suits).

According to DW, Yaqiu Wang, senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch, “The level of human rights violations is astonishing.”

“You would think that after two years of the pandemic, the Chinese government would have been more prepared for a lockdown. The most surprising thing is how rigid the lockdown in Shanghai is, even though many people know that omicron is not that serious,” she added.

Wang said that the situation in Shanghai over the past few weeks reflected systematic human rights violations, and described the citizens’ suffering as “unnecessary.”

She told DW, “”This shows that China’s system is rigid and opaque, as it doesn’t factor medical experts’ opinions or people’s demands and wishes into their decision-making at all.”

In response to the rapidly escalating rates of COVID-19 in Shanghai, many districts have implemented the most stringent disease prevention policy. 

According to residents and (the) widely circulated social media posts, the Time reports that people living in the same building confirmed that virus cases now risk being transported to government-run quarantine facilities. Previously, only people living in the same apartment or floor with positive cases would likely be considered close contacts and put in official quarantine. 

An online video captured in a residential area of Shanghai showed two epidemic prevention workers riding motorbikes while warning residents to stay home. They announced that if one person in a building tests positive, everybody living in the same building will be considered close contact and sent to government isolation.

In addition, netizens lamented many cases of epidemic prevention staff breaking into people’s houses by themselves, forcibly removing people from their homes and taking them to quarantine facilities, or seizing their keys to allow health workers to disinfect their apartments. The “Big Whites” rummaged through the room and sprayed disinfectant everywhere.

A video shows that health workers use large sprayers to spray chemicals all over a resident’s home. Many fear this could bring about more severe health effects than the COVID-19 itself.

On May 9, a woman who had just returned from a quarantine facility found her house all over the place. She shared the scene on social media as she cried, “I am shaking with anger. The cooking oil and rice I bought are all gone, the piles of shoes stacked in the kitchen are also gone… I spent a whole lot of money buying this stuff. Now they are all gone. I’m so furious”. 

Some homeowners went to quarantine centers and refused to hand over the keys, so the epidemic prevention staff broke into the house by themselves.

Vision Times quoted a Chinese netizen on Weibo who is believed to live in Shanghai, “The house-to-house disinfection was carried out without people’s knowledge [because they went to quarantine facilities]. Epidemic prevention workers unplugged the refrigerator in the house and arbitrarily threw food from the fridge and freezer on the ground. It was not easy to get food and supplies [these days], but they destroyed at will.”

There are also people who came back from the isolation facility and found their houses empty. Their money was nowhere to be found, and the refrigerator was also ransacked.

Another video by netizens shows an epidemic prevention worker telling people, “Because your neighbor tested positive for COVID-19, your family will be transferred to a field hospital during the night…”. The homeowner was resentful and fired back at them. A woman said: “They [the neighbors] don’t go out, they don’t meet other neighbors, we don’t have close contacts. Why do I have to quarantine? I also have kids!”

The men in hazmat suits dodged the questions raised by the resident. They emphasized that “You have to follow the local regulations, you can’t do whatever you want, unless you’re in the United States of America. This is China! Please follow the national regulations, don’t ask me why.” The health staff warned that if she did not 

comply, she would be forcibly dragged away by the police.

Additionally, videos circulating on Twitter show a man surrounded and suppressed by several policemen wearing hazmat suits. Officers restrained the man, wrapping tape around him until he looked like a mummy and was unable to move. They then put him in a police car, an act that shows the boundless power of the so-called police force of authoritarianism.

As extreme epidemic prevention and control measures continued to escalate, some people could not stand it and began to protest. On the evening of May 7, there was a clash between police and people in Jinsheng community, Zhuanqiao town, Minhang district, Shanghai.

According to a video filmed by locals, residents of the Jinsheng residence in Shanghai demanded food supplies from the authorities. Local young people took the lead in the scuffles with the police.

Then, the police took a young man downstairs and beat him. His family ran down to the rescue, so they clashed with the police. Some locals saw this and ran over to help; thus, the police were forced to leave.

After a while, dozens of police officers came to the scene to continue their assault. Angry locals continued to protest.

Following the incident, the official Weibo from Shanghai’s Minhang District Information Office released a statement confirming the riot, according to Sound of Hope.

The report said: Some people at Lane 2688, Yindu Road, were deceived and exploited. They were aggressive with the epidemic prevention workers with the excuse of asking for supplies. …. The report also said that the police plan to take criminal coercive measures against the ringleaders of the disturbance and that the case is currently undergoing further trial.

On May 8, Tong Zhiwei, a professor at the East China University of Political Science and Law, and more than 20 other intellectuals published an article on the Internet titled “Opinions on two of the new epidemic prevention and control measures in Shanghai”. The report pointed out that the two measures have stirred resentment and caused the financial hub’s residents to react very strongly.

According to Hong Kong media South China Morning Post, immediately after it was published, the article went viral on WeChat, but of course, it was quickly pulled down by Beijing’s Internet censors. Tong Zhiwei’s Weibo account, with nearly 500,000 followers, was also banned, and his Weibo posts were not available.

Tong Zhiwei pointed out in his article that

1. It is against the law that neighborhood officers and local police force citizens to go to quarantine centers. This action should be stopped immediately.

2. No organization in Shanghai has the right to force citizens to hand over their house key and go inside their home to disinfect. 

Tong Zhiwei pointed out that if the Shanghai Municipal Party Committee and Municipal Government believe there is an emergency, they can ask the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress or the State Council to take corresponding measures following the “Constitution.” However, the virus does not cause great harm. Losses loom larger than gains if authorities apply extreme measures in response to the pandemic, the loss will be more than the gain. 

At the end of the article, Tong Zhiwei particularly notes that “The author Tong Zhiwei is a Shanghainese, an outstanding professor of Guangdong University of Economics and Finance, and a professor at East China University of Political Science and Law. A total of more than 20 professors from educational and academic institutions such as Hubei University and Peking University have proposed substantial modifications [in epidemic prevention of Shanghai government].

By the way, we can also take a glimpse of Beijing. As the epidemic situation in the capital continues to heat up, the authorities have taken more drastic measures to prevent COVID-19.

Video and images posted by netizens show that sharp barbed wire has been set up at fences and gates in many communities in Beijing. In the past, they were used to prevent theft, but now they are to force people stay at home. One netizen said that this measure shows that the government treats people like animals.

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