Coronavirus lockdowns returned to the Chinese mega-city of Xi’an on Tuesday, as classes were suspended, public venues shut down, and tourist attractions closed.
Chinese citizens, both those residing in Xi’an and outside the city, flooded social media with angry and frightened posts at the latest twist in China’s seemingly endless lockdown horror show.
China’s state-run Global Times described Xi’an imposing its lockdown haphazardly, citing reports from various residents who suddenly discovered grade-school classes were suspended indefinitely, restaurants and movie theaters were closed, and historic tourist sites were off-limits:
A teacher from Xi’an Youth Palace told the Global Times on Tuesday on the condition of anonymity that the palace has suspended all the services and activities due to the COVID-19 epidemic prevention and control, and will conduct disinfection starting on Wednesday.
An employee from a district education bureau in Xi’an confirmed with the Global Times on Tuesday that they have suspended the onsite classes for some students involving more than 100 schools within the district. “All the teachers have to work fully including conducting online classes and guiding epidemic prevention when students stay at home,” the employee said.
Affected by the latest flare-ups, many venues including Shaanxi Library, Shaanxi History Museum, Daci’en Temple and other scenic spots, cultural venues and cinemas have also issued notices to suspend services.
One of Xi’an’s biggest attractions is the fabled Terra Cotta Army, an amazing life-size replica of an entire army on the march created 2,000 years ago and rediscovered in 1974. The Terra Cotta Army is so huge that archaeologists are still finding more of its soldiers in buried vaults near Xi’an. 20 new additions to the collection were unearthed in February 2022.
Local officials claimed all this was done because Xi’an reported four coronavirus cases and seven asymptomatic carriers on Monday, with another five cases and eight carriers discovered in the surrounding Shaanxi province. Xi’an alone has a population of 13 million.
Xi’an has already suffered through one of the longest and harshest coronavirus lockdowns in China, a two-month ordeal that left city residents pleading for help as they were denied access to food and medicine. Several residents were killed outright by the lockdown, including the infamous cases of a baby who died in a miscarriage after his mother was denied medical care, and a man who died of a heart attack for similar reasons.
Xi’an’s lockdown at the end of 2021 was so horrific that the Chinese Communist Party made an extremely rare admission of error, drumming out a scapegoat official for not ensuring the quarantined residents would have access to doctors.
Xi’an is hardly alone in the latest lockdown wave. CNBC on Tuesday estimated that 4.8 percent of China’s Gross Domestic Product is currently being negatively impacted by coronavirus restrictions.
This includes three districts in Shanghai, which was subjected to an agonizing two-month lockdown in July. Shanghai residents are visibly nervous their ordeal could be repeated.
Some Chinese have become vocally suspicious that the Communist Party is going overboard with lockdowns to control unhappy citizens during the upcoming Party Congress, at which dictator Xi Jinping plans to claim an unprecedented third term in power.
Reuters reported on Tuesday that Chinese citizens are suddenly and inexplicably finding themselves classified as coronavirus carriers and subjected to movement restrictions, especially residents of the capital city of Beijing:
China’s Twitter-like Weibo has been flooded with complaints from users claiming they were unfairly hit by COVID “pop-up windows” on their smartphone health apps which require a positive PCR test to be cleared and allow unrestricted mobility.
One hashtag about Beijing “pop-up windows” started on Oct. 5 and generated over 12 million views by Tuesday. At least one similar hashtag was censored.
“I’m a pregnant woman that has done nothing. This pop-up window has delayed my pregnancy check in Beijing. How can people live like this?” user monianOPQ wrote on Monday.
These sudden, and seemingly random, messages from the mandatory health app have become so common that Beijing residents speak of getting “pop-upped.” The message from the health app that instructs users to quarantine themselves and seek testing takes the form of a pop-up notification that will not go away until the user complies with protocols. The app is checked when people try to enter buildings or use public resources, and if the dreaded pop-up is on the screen, they will be turned away. Some residents are complaining that the pop-up is no longer disappearing, even after they energetically comply with health requirements and undergo multiple coronavirus tests.
Sources in Beijing told Reuters the Communist Party plans to shut down postal services and shipping during the Party Congress to clamp down on dissident activity. One print shop employee said he has already been terrorized out of printing any documents that might be construed as challenges to the Communist Party’s power.
“I would be in hot soup if I let them print from my shop. We’ve been told to be extra alert this month,” the employee told Reuters after saying he turned away a dozen people who wanted to make copies of petitions and court documents.
China’s state-run People’s Daily is cranking out daily editorials instructing the populace to stop complaining about the Communist Party’s “sustainable,” “scientific,” and “effective” “zero-covid” lockdowns — a policy Xi will trumpet as one of his towering successes when he claims his new term in power.
“Only when the epidemic is under control can the economy be stable, people’s lives be peaceful, and economic and social development be stable and healthy,” the People’s Daily insisted in its Tuesday editorial, sending clear signals that the lockdowns will continue after the Communist Party Congress.