A social media post has sparked an intense reaction from Chinese authorities as they scramble to contain a new Covid wave.
China has long remained committed to its harsh Covid Zero strategy, many months after the rest of the world moved on and reopened after years of uncertainty.
As a result, millions of Chinese citizens have faced extraordinary, draconian lockdowns over the course of the pandemic – and now, a fresh wave has seen cases soar to new levels, leading to tightened rules in some areas despite a recent pledge from the government to relax its Covid stance.
This week, an unnamed citizen took to Chinese social media site WeChat to slam the nation’s Covid policies, hitting out at China’s refusal to follow the rest of the world’s lead and allow a return to normal life.
But the post soon went viral after striking a chord with a population that is growing increasingly frustrated by the government’s actions – only for it to be taken down by authorities.
The poster was also blocked from the platform after the post received 100,000 hits.
“Audiences at the Qatar World Cup are not wearing masks or required to have PCR test results available with them – aren’t they on the same planet we live? Doesn’t the Covid virus hurt them?” the post asked, according to Bloomberg.
The author also shared a series of demands regarding Covid policies, such as publicising Covid death rates, comparing Covid deaths to those caused by the flu, and weighing up the cost of Covid Zero if the virus can’t be defeated.
They also questioned the purpose of mass testing, the effectiveness of vaccines, and how long Covid restrictions would remain in place, as well as why nearby Hong Kong was able to reopen without crushing its health system.
Panic as Covid cases soar
The latest wave comes after Chinese leaders announced earlier this month that Covid policies would be more targeted moving forward, which many saw as a sign restrictions would finally begin to be eased.
However, since then controls have actually been ramped up in areas such as Guangdong province, Chongqing and Beijing as cases increase.
In fact, in Beijing, schools in some areas have been closed and entire apartment blocks locked down once again, leading to panic buying and grocery delivery apps being swamped by a drastic spike in demand for essentials.
From today, Zhengzhou, which is home to the biggest iPhone factory on the planet, will essentially lock down for five days, while Shijiazhuang, not far from Beijing, has asked residents to remain home to slow the spread.
The blocked WeChat post comes amid growing discontent in China, a nation where public dissent is rare and swiftly suppressed.
However, last month, a lone protester did go viral after publicly slamming President Xi Jinping’s leadership, and questioning strict Covid rules.
Peng Lifa was arrested soon after he took to Beijing’s prominent Sitong Bridge disguised as a construction worker and lit a fire to attract attention before hanging two banners and playing a prerecorded protest chant through a loudspeaker.
“Students strike, workers strike, remove the dictator and state thief Xi Jinping,” one banner declared, while another said: “We want to eat, not do coronavirus tests; reform, not the Cultural Revolution. We want freedom, not lockdowns; elections, not rulers. We want dignity, not lies. Be citizens, not enslaved people.”
While Peng disappeared soon after, his message seemed to spark a movement within China and across the world, with members of the public adopting his slogans and reproducing them in public areas.
But Mr Xi has repeatedly doubled down on his controversial Covid policy, insisting it had slashed Covid deaths despite the economic and personal impact.