Thank you to all who read, commented, and/or shared my previous post of translations about four of the unknown number of Shanghai residents who lost their lives in pain and indignity due to denied or delayed medical care under draconian “Zero Covid” rules. There are many more of these stories, and I have drafted another post about these heartbreaking deaths.
But agonizing deaths and the loss of beloved family and friends are not the only form of inhumane treatment that ordinary folks in the People’s Republic of China have suffered. Here, I am presenting the voices of some “netizens” (social media users) in the cities of Xi’an, Changchun, Shenzhen, and Guangzhou—with populations in 2020 of about 13, 9, 17.5, and 18 million people, respectively, or 57.5 million in total.
Xi’an underwent a city lockdown from December 22, 2021 to January 24, 2022, and has announced a “temporary, partial” lockdown of restaurants, schools, entertainment, and other movement again as of April 15. Changchun, capital of northeastern Jilin province, as well as Jilin, another major city, together locked down up to a total 13.5 million of their residents in the frigid days of mid-March--and the closures continue now, with residents complaining of food shortages and crops under threat.
Shenzhen, a key trade and tech hub directly north of Hong Kong, had a partial “lifting” of a weeklong lockdown in mid-March, but people are supposed to show a negative COVID test from the last 72 hours, students are just returning to school as of mid-April, and people are expected to quarantine for 7 to 21 days upon return from many domestic locales—coming back from Hong Kong (a short train ride), for example, people are supposed to stay at a centralized quarantine hotel for 14 days and then self-isolate for 7 more days at home. Guangzhou, a major financial hub and capital of the economic powerhouse province of Guangdong, has been testing every resident, closed its primary and middle schools, partly cut access to some residential compounds, and restricted people’s ability to leave town.
Here are what a few of these many millions of people talked about and created online in protest of their situations, going back to earlier lockdowns this year. Please remember that sociopolitical critique can lead to severe legal consequences within this country, and that social media fora like Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram are all banned. Protests in the face of lockdown indignities can result in being arrested (see the final story in the Changchun section.) These are ordinary people experiencing extraordinary pressure and expressing it where they can.
In Anglophone society, I have too often heard others claiming that Chinese speakers are somehow inherently “conformist,” “collectivist,” or unable to critique the world around them. This is very far from reality and, even when “collectivism” is spoken of as a positive trait, such statements ring hollow. Human needs for socialization, basic sustenance, and dignity are universal.
In the next installment of this series of translations from the PRC, I will present a few accounts from smaller cities—cities obscure to many within the PRC and likely totally unknown to those outside the country. As one post from such a city in Jiangxi province exclaimed, “we’re not as glamorous and urban in our image like Shanghai, and we’ve never become a trending topic. But the lives of Dongxing people are lives, too, and the people of Dongxing also want to live their lives.”
Weibo user “Ai paobu de xiegang zhongian” [A middle-aged “slash career” guy who likes to run] March 12, 2022, 19:31 local time:
Have folks thought through one question, which is—are these stickers they give out to every single person after their PCR tests—are they really necessary??? Don’t our QR codes automatically display our PCR status? Whether we’ve done it or not, whether we’re negative, can’t that be seen with one quick scan? This is something Big Data’s supposed to be able to solve, but we have to regress to these kindergarten level stickers to show off a new trick in pandemic control.
we have to regress to these kindergarten level stickers to show off a new trick in pandemic control.
I’m gonna say it: there’s no anti-forgery measures in these stickers and there are gigantic high-res images all over the Internet. Some nefarious person could go print them at any old printing factory. So I just don’t understand what they accomplish, apart from troubling people and costing them tax money? Just to show you did your PCR test! Have you considered that a positive case with one of these stickers might’ve strolled all over town for a day before getting their test results? These pandemic measures that somebody in an office slapped their forehead and came up with, apart from funneling profits to some printing factory, what do they bring to us the people of Xi’an? If high-tech methods like QR codes and big data are useless and pathetic before a little sticker, then why did we spend so much money to do all that data engineering? What was the point? #Xi’anpandaPCRstickers #Xi’anpandemiccontrol
Weibo user “Nanxiang xiaosheng YXY” [South alley young gent YXY], January 16, 2022, 11:17 local time:
#Xi’anpandemic #urgenthelpneeded They really don’t care about whether folks live or die. From lockdown on the 23rd I’ve eaten instant noodles for 20-some days straight because I can’t buy anything. I’m just eating one package a day. The worst was a few days I didn’t have anything to eat at all. I begged for help but nobody cared. A policy nobody bothers executing is worthless shit. One pandemic really shows how much trash there is out there.
From lockdown on the 23rd I’ve eaten instant noodles for 20-some days straight because I can’t buy anything.
Weibo user “Soleildiandian” [Soleil bounce-bouce], January 19, 2022, 10:20 local time:
#Xi’anpandemic #urgenthelpneeded Baby is over four months old now. But she never got her first Hep B or her BCG shots, and the later shots had to get pushed back (crying face emoji). She’s sickly, she was under five pounds when she was born, and she kept getting jaundice. Then she was in the hospital for 14 days with brochitis, and now they’ve shut things down for the pandemic. Kids in Weiyang District are able to get their shots now, but they’re saying the first Hep B has to be at the hospital where she was born in order to be recorded in the system. But the Northwest Women and Children [Hospital] Immunization Department hasn’t opened yet (crying face emoji).
Students at Xi’an University of Architecture and Technology, January 10, 2022, reposted by verified account “Qinfen ge [Diligent Bro]” on January 11, 2022, 16:12 local time:
It’s not like we wanted to eat some kind of fancy delicacies. Are we “giant babies” for wanting the cafeteria food to be cooked all the way through, the rice not to be all sour and stale, the meat not to be bleeding and to be a little more well done, the chow mein not to have steel wool in it, and the school to stop making us pay fees left and right? Are these problems really not problems to you? Are we not allowed to protest these problems? Take a look at these things they gave us and see if they’re worth 15 yuan? Barely any eggs in the tomato-and-egg stirfry, and you count that as a protein dish? The rice is all half cooked and the Napa cabbage stalks are all in there whole and raw.
You have the face to call us “giant babies”? Would you make your kid spend 25 grand to live in a cement-floor dorm room, not be able to take a shower for a month, use a group toilet and a group washroom to brush their teeth, eat half-cooked rice and half-plucked poultry, stand in line for an hour to buy a meal after lockdown and get nothing but hot air? Having us students clean up the toilets and take out the trash, did you give us anything for our volunteer work? Are you all treating us like free labor? If you don’t come live in our dorms and eat this trash food then don’t be making noise here, you fuckin’ crazy Karen.
You have the face to call us “giant babies”? Would you make your kid spend 25 grand to live in a cement-floor dorm room, not be able to take a shower for a month, use a group toilet and a group washroom to brush their teeth…?
Verified Weibo user “Sulun interprets words” [Sulun jiezi], April 17, 2022, 22:08 local time:
The night of March 19th, I suddenly got an eye problem. It was incredibly painful! At 7:30am on the 20th, I rushed to the Shenzhen Eye Hospital for emergency care, but they didn’t let me go in. They said my 48-hour PCR [negative] wasn’t good enough. Their rules were a 24-hour PCR [negative]. They made me wait until 9 am for a PCR then go home and wait, then come back when I had that PCR result from within 24 hours. I live in Dongguan (we aren’t in a pandemic zone so we can just do 48-hour PCRs). [Translator’s Note: Dongguan is roughly 45 miles from Shenzhen; the latter is considered the more advanced city.] My urgent illness, because I had to run back and forth for not having a 24-hour turnaround PCR, never got treated in a timely fashion. Now, after surgery, the recovery is not at all ideal because my ocular hypertension wasn’t handled in time. My optical nerves are damaged and there are vitreous opacities in my eye. My pupil is dilated and may not recover.
These dogmatic rules at hospitals are so evil and heinous! Who knows how many people were just like me, not dying of COVID but of other illnesses! I’ve decided to bring a lawsuit!! Let’s see if these regulations or the law is more powerful?!
Weibo user “Hello, winter” [Nihao zhege dongtian], April 15, 2022, 21:12 local time:
@shenzhencitygovernment @shenzhenhealthcommittee @shenzhenweibolounge @voiceofchina
Hello, bosses. As a Shenzhen resident, I have a few inquiries for you all.
- Is it the case that the national government has a document requiring that people all get the [COVID] vaccination regardless of their physical condition?
- To go home to one’s residential compound, apart from a PCR test, do we now have to receive a [COVID] vaccination too?
- To do a collective PCR test in the neighborhood, do you need a vaccine record [for COVID]?
These are all issues for people living in Shenzhen right now. I, because of health reasons (many allergies and suppressed immune system) have not received any [COVID] vaccinations. Now police have shown up next to the gate in and out of the neighborhood and police are all over the PCR test station checking people’s vaccine records. They’re using megaphones (megaphone emoji) saying that people without vaccine records can’t enter the neighborhood.
Can you please explain to me what’s going on here? I hope leaders somewhere can give us ordinary folks an explanation:
- If [health]problems appear after the vaccine, will anyone be held responsible?
- Where can I get an exemption document for not being able to receive the vaccine due to health reasons? And, how do I display that on my QR code?
If [health]problems appear after the vaccine, will anyone be held responsible?
Weibo user “Yikgaai11”, April 15, 2022, 13:32 local time:
#shanghaipandemic #shenzhenforcingcovidvax #shenzhenpandemic @People’sDaily @XinhuaNews @XinhuaDaily @Shenzhenhealthcommittee @GuangdongNews @HeadlineNews
Shenzhen is Shenzhen, in China. If you change the way of phrasing it, does that mean it’s not compelled anymore???! Everyone, help please (prayer hands/thanks emoji) the people are the real masters of the nation, local misdeeds are damaging our Party (prayer hands/thanks emoji x 2)
[Image 1]: Screenshot of a series of duplicate, automated messages from a residential neighborhood commitee. “Dear Futian Neighborhood residents and friends, the pandemic’s situation outside is still fierce and dangerous. Social chains of transmission have not yet been broken. Please receive a booster vaccine as soon as possible to ensure your and society’s safety. If you do not receive a booster, an application will be made to give you a “yellow” QR code, which will affect your daily life. The result may be, “no vax, no going out, no riding in cars, no going to work, no going shopping.” For yourself and for others, hurry to get your vaccine! Futian Neighborhood vaccine hotline: 28811899. Futian Neighborhood Office [Please do not reply to this text message.]
[Image 2]: A meme/viral image from another user and reposted by user Yikgaai11, reading “COVID-19 vaccines: vaccinations must not be forced upon all individuals: On April 11, the National Health Commission’s spokesperson Mi Feng indicated that some regions had oversimplified their COVID vaccination work and had even become “one size fits all” in forcibly requiring all individuals receive the vaccine. This must be resolutely corrected.”[Note: this spokesperson’s statement was widely quoted by official PRC news media in April 2021 and accompanied by a set of policies about informed consent issued by the NHC the same day.]
[Image 3]: Screenshot of a Weibo search for the hashtag “Shenzhen disguising forced vax,” with the results page stating, “Per related laws and policies, this topic page is not being displayed.”
[Image 4]: Screenshot of a short text from another user and reposted by user Yikgaai11, reading “Disguised forcible vaccination is illegal and criminal behavior. Forced vaccination in another guise is suspected of violating international law in the Nuremberg Code, the Constitutional Law of the People’s Republic of China, the Vaccine Management Law of the People’s Republic of China, of the “Informed, Consensual, Voluntary” principles announced by the People’s Republic of China Central Commission for Discipline Inspection on July 16, 2021! It’s furthermore suspected of violating the People’s Republic of China’s National Health Commission’s “Informed, Consensual, Voluntary” principles announced on April 11, 2021! This is a potential case of political overreach!
[Image 4]: Image of an official announcement from the Shenzhen City, Luohu District Bureau of Commerce.
“Luohu District Bureau of Commerce notice on improving COVID-19 vaccination work:
All businesses of Luohu District, currently our city remains in the ‘fierce attack’ phase of pandemic control. In order to strictly carry out the directives of the province, city, and district about COVID-19 vaccination, we ask that all businesses must organize all of their employees and staff to have “all those who should get the shot” receive vaccination by Monday, April 18, 2022. Those who match the conditions for receiving the first or third doses of vaccination but who fail to do so will be sorted by this Bureau through our big data systems and will be reported upward to be managed by QR code assignment. Once a person receives a “yellow” or “red” QR code, they will suffer the consequences themselves. We hope that all point persons at businesses will give this their highest priority and firmly carry out their subjective responsibilities as enterprises to control the pandemic.
Luohu District Commerce Bureau, April 14, 2022. (Contact: Mr. Bie, 25666458)”
[Note: This entire Weibo post seems likely to be deleted in the future, thus I’ve included a screenshot of it here:]
Weibo user “If your eyes were really this cold” [Tangruo ni de yanjing zhen shi zheyang leng], April 18, 2022, 00:38 local time:
Changchun’s been enacting “social zero” [COVID], it’s been a month and a half. Now everyone’s depleted and desperate, the economic impact’s been huge, prices are screaming upward and inflation’s hitting everything. Taiyuan [Shanxi Province] is also a provincial capital, but their “social zero” took half a month, or even less. Though the severity of the situation in the two cities is different, the difference in results [the lockdowns] have caused are way too huge. When the pandemic started I thought, a month, tops, that’s gotta be the end of it. After all, we’re all experienced now. But who knew they could draw out the battle front for two whole months. They’ve made it so everybody’s suffering. We’re not getting enough to eat, we can’t even take a shower. We’re all grabbing at food and trying to do group orders. All the prices for everything are skyrocketing. What else is this but total corruption? It really puts a chill in your heart. Everyone talking about fleeing Changchun isn’t just joking around. There’s going to be a brain drain for sure. #Changchunpandemic
They’ve made it so everybody’s suffering. We’re not getting enough to eat, we can’t even take a shower. We’re all grabbing at food and trying to do group orders. All the prices for everything are skyrocketing. What else is this but total corruption?
Weibo user “Big Matt Beer” [Da Matt pijiu], April 18, 2022, 00:10 local time:
The 37th day of Changchun’s city lockdown! In the past month, at first buying food was basically by grabbing (from the produce mart on the ground floor and the fresh foods supermarket). Then there was some support coming in from outside the city, and then designated city provision-guarantee businesses began to offer designated channels for buying [food]. The neighborhoods did diddly squat early on, but now tonight the management sent out this kind of notice. Who knows if any of the five designated enterprises in Changchun approved by the Commerce Bureau can manage all of these four points when they deliver food to us.
Nailing down the barn door after all the horses ran off. They can send back the shipments whenever they want, then. (Laughing/crying emoji.)
Is there any hope of Changchun coming out of lockdown on May Day or what? (Laughing/crying emoji.)
[Image: screenshot of a text message from the user’s neighborhood property management, reading “Neighborhood notice: all businesses must follow the neighborhood rules and keep the gates secured. About deliveries, four principles must be maintained: 1, products must provide proof of being from a “protected provision” business; 2, products must provide proof of [negative] surface tests [for COVID]; 3, delivery staff must wear PPE correctly; 4, delivery staff must provide a PCR report from within the last 24 hours. (Exclamation point emoji x2) If any of the above (finger pointing emoji) four items is not completed according to requirement, management will not receive the delivery.]
Paying Weibo user “Cutie lots or not, eh?” [Keai duobuduo a], April 13, 2022, 22:54 local time:
Sitting in Changchun’s Kuancheng District, our building is in the full lockdown zone. This afternoon, without any warning or any related new directives, a “big white” [Note: the nickname given to police officers and other government staff/neighborhood volunteers in the all-white hazmat suits] came to our doors to give out PPE, saying that the entire building was moving to centralized isolation. Where they were transferring us to, at first they said they didn’t know, then they said a bunch of different places. Downstairs there were cops and a bus.
On the nights of April 2nd and 4th, they transferred away positive people, and some of these people turned negative and got sent back. We didn’t contact them, so why are they moving all of us in the building now? After the 4th, they came once on the 8th to do a PCR for all of us, then nothing.
I called 96118, 12345, 88777077 to complain, but no replies so far. In my room here I can hear really loud knocking on doors. Looks like no sleep tonight. So the so-called “social zero” is to take all of us negative people very safe at home away? That’s “zero”? Ridiculous!
#Changchunpandemic #Changchun #ChangchunKuanchengpandemicmeasures #Changchunpandemichelp #happeninginChangchun @Changchunannouncements @Jilinannouncements @Jilinprovincialhealthcommission
[Screenshot of this user’s post included here in the event it is removed or deleted:]
Verified Weibo user Luo Xiaowei, of the “Boiling Point” video channel [Feidian shipin], April 13, 2022, 14:40 local time:
#Police confirm that a Changchun resident inciting a “pot knocking movement” was detained #Internet rumors verified #Changchunpandemic
In recent days in Changchun, Jilin, there was talk online of a resident surnamed Wang who fanned the flames of a “pot-knocking movement” [of protest] in his neighborhood group chat though his daily necessities were ensured. The nature of his actions cause serious negative impacts. According to Jimu News, the police have detained Wang for 7 days and fined him 300 yuan [Note: about 47 USD] for his unlawful behavior. On the 13th, officers at the Changchun Municipal Public Security’s Lüyuan Division, Xi’an Plaza Police Station indicated that this was a real incident and will be later reported on the official Changchun Municipal Public Security social media accounts.
[Video of the “incident” attached to original post here.]
Weibo user “Little joy is sleeping” [Xiao joy zai shuijiao], April 17, 2022, 01:51 local time:
#Guangzhoupandemic I’m so done…after school started, Dongguan exploded so I couldn’t go home. Now it’s Guanghzou’s turn for the pandemic. They just don’t want me to go home, huh. Can this pandemic just GTFO this earth already? Being locked down at school for two whole months, I’m gonna get a mental illness ffs! Can I just be allowed to go home once for May Day…
Being locked down at school for two whole months, I’m gonna get a mental illness ffs!
Weibo user “Walk with me for a while” [Pei wo zou yi duan lu], April 17, 2022, 11:18 local time:
Any brothers and sisters who aren’t asleep out there,can you tell me if you’ll get quarantined if you fly from Baiyun Airport in Guangzhou to Shuangliu Airport in Chengdu? I’m really upset, I can’t drag my feet any more. I’m afraid Grandpa won’t be able to wait for me to get there #GuangzhouBaiyunAirport #ChengduShuangliuAirport #Guangzoupandemic
[Note: the user further commented as follows (full comment section in attached screen capture):]
07:12, April 18: Thank you to the six folks who PM’d me. I called the Chengdu pandemic response center yesterday and they said everyone who landed in Chengdu from Guangzhou would be quarantined, whether you had a [all-clear] travel pass or not.
07:54, April 18:So then I returned my ticket for noon from Guangzhou and changed it to Shenzhen. My daddy called me at 6 this morning saying the situation [with Grandpa] was even worse, so I got up and took a car to Bao’an Airport. I got there at 8, so I returned that noon ticket and bought another one for 9:30. I landed in Chengdu at 11:40, borrowed a car from a friend and drove home. I got there at 4 in the afternoon (crying emoji).
Weibo user “Keke’s daily amusements” [Keke quchang], April 17, 2022, 09:49 local time, from Guangdong Associate-to-Bachelors Discussion
#GDAssociatetoBachelors #some students may not be able to sit for the exam [Note: students in three-year associate degrees must sit for an exam to transfer to a bachelors’ program.] #Guangzhoupandemic
Let me tell you all from my personal experience, lockdowns come really suddenly. You have no idea when they’ll seal up your own front door. So please don’t think this doesn’t matter for you or that you’re above it all.
When I got sealed in last year, it was three in the morning. The neighborhood and the po-pos knocked at the door to tell us to go downstairs to do PCRs. Then in the morning the building was all surrounded, then they put “do not enter” tape and police alarms on our doors. Someone tried to sneak out by hiding in a trash can but got caught. We were shut in for 14 days. No warning at all before it happened. We were completely caught flat-footed!
Then in the morning the building was all surrounded, then they put “do not enter” tape and police alarms on our doors. Someone tried to sneak out by hiding in a trash can but got caught. We were shut in for 14 days.
Now [cases] are rising every day in Guangzhou and they’ll expand the lockdowns. No one can promise that they won’t shut you down too. Putting your head in the sand won’t give you a guarantee that you’ll be able to sit for the exam. And who will take responsibility for this risk [of contagion during the exam]? They’ll just tell you to hope for the best! So do you still want to risk the exams? You’re gonna tough it out vs the virus?