Residents of the Chinese city of Linyi, located in the northeastern Shandong province, clashed with police on Tuesday as public backlash against endless coronavirus lockdowns intensified.
At least seven arrests were reported, although most other details of the unrest were quickly scrubbed by China’s vast army of censors.
Linyi police issued a statement warning that “strong measures” would be taken against those who “illegally violated the legal rights of personal protection of citizens,” presumably meaning anyone who takes to the streets in defiance of coronavirus lockdown orders to protest against those orders.
According to the state-run China Daily, the seven people detained in Linyi were “epidemic prevention workers,” who were accused of “dragging and beating” residents of the Lanshan district. No details were provided about why the “epidemic prevention workers” became so aggressive with the residents.
India’s Hindustan Times said the government coronavirus workers became violent after Lanshan residents “argued against harsh Covid-control measures in their community.” The police became involved after an embarrassing video of hazmat-suited government employees thrashing citizens and shoving them into vehicles went viral.
The Chinese Communist Party might not have cared so much about public backlash in the past, but public frustration with coronavirus lockdowns is visibly growing across the authoritarian nation, especially since coronavirus outbreaks continue occurring despite draconian measures long since abandoned by the rest of the world.
The latest Chinese coronavirus hot spot is Guangzhou, a city of 18 million that serves as the capital of Guangdong province and a global manufacturing hub. The Guangzhou outbreak began two weeks ago and is currently producing over 2,000 reported infections per day.
Several districts in Guangzhou are currently under heavy restrictions, but a citywide lockdown has not yet been imposed. Some observers take this as a sign of modest loosening in China’s frenetic Chinese coronavirus policies, since the equally large and important city of Shanghai was subjected to a brutal two-month lockdown last summer after a comparable number of infections were reported.
Over 1,000 cases a day have also been reported in Xinjiang, home of the oppressed Uyghur Muslims, and Inner Mongolia. Both areas have been suffering under heavy travel restrictions and lockdowns since early last month.
The Inner Mongolian capital of Hohhot was rocked by public outrage over the weekend after a 55-year-old woman was found dead inside a locked-down apartment complex. The woman’s family pleaded with community workers for help, saying she suffered from anxiety disorders and had suicidal tendencies.
“An investigation revealed that property management and community staff were slow to respond, did not respond properly, and lacked sensitivity to emergencies,” the government of Hohhot said in a statement on Sunday.
Only a few days previously, a three-year-old boy died of gas poisoning in the western city of Lanzhou because his father was unable to rescue him from a locked-down residential compound. The boy’s father was thwarted in his first attempt to leave the building and get help because he could not produce positive coronavirus test results on demand.
“My son’s cause of death was an accident, but during the whole process of our call for help, there was avoidance of responsibility and dereliction of duty. The pandemic control went too far,” the boy’s father Tuo Shilei told the BBC.
Protesters hit the streets in Lanzhou and scuffled with police after the boy’s death, and unlike Linyi, the outpouring of grief and anger was so enormous that China’s censors could not block all the social media posts. A statement from the police department claiming officers responded to Tuo’s calls for help within 13 minutes has been widely dismissed as a lie by angry Lanzhou residents.
One video showed men in black uniforms beating and kicking a protester while onlookers sarcastically shouted “The Communist Party is just awesome!” and “The three years of the pandemic was his whole life!” – a reference to Tuo Shilei’s son.
“Whether the police statement is true or not, people’s resistance caused by the pandemic has peaked. All the censorship and coverups have made things worse,” one user wrote on China’s tightly controlled social media platform Weibo.