Shanghai’s Lockdowns Result in Starvation and Quarantine Enforcers Being Attacked


In Shanghai, 25 million people remain locked down as 26,087 new COVID cases were reported on Sunday.

The situation has grown increasingly dire: Two people who tried to leave their apartment to walk their dog were confronted by a COVID prevention worker who they ended up attacking. At least one man allegedly tried to get the cops to apprehend him so he could at least have food to eat. Meanwhile, people who end up in central quarantine—state-administered facilities where COVID-positive people are sometimes sent so others in their apartment buildings don’t get sick—complain about the fact that it’s so unhygienic, it may well be facilitating greater spread of the virus (or even reinfection). Shared rooms, no running water, broken toilets (or disgusting ones shared by hundreds of people), and people crammed into overflow beds in hospital hallways have grown to be expected by the city’s increasingly angry residents.

This is all after reports emerged that parents were being separated from their COVID-positive children (a policy officials claim has been altered, with parents now allowed to apply to remain with their sick, minor children). Meanwhile, last week, a graphic video went viral on Chinese social media of a COVID prevention worker killing a family’s corgi dog in the streets.

Given the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) aggressive track record of censorship and tight media control, it’s noteworthy that so much information has leaked through what is termed the “Great Firewall”—China’s internet censorship apparatus—and made its way to the Western press. But this may be a somewhat deliberate tradeoff on the part of the CCP, recognizing that while they can’t fully suppress the horror scenes, they can scapegoat lower-level officials as a form of damage control instead.

“Chinese censorship is more complicated than just trying to stop negative information,” Jeremy Daum, senior fellow at Yale Law’s Paul Tsai China Center, tells Reason. The CCP has “made announcements about cracking down on ‘rumors,’ but to put a city as cosmopolitan and populous as Shanghai under total information quarantine would probably be impractical and counterproductive,” he says. If the city’s residents were to feel “silenced,” that “would probably be more disruptive of social order and a bigger threat to stable government than letting people vent.”

“Censorship isn’t always a blunt tool,” says Daum, “especially when directed by higher-level authorities. They try to be cognizant of public opinion, because the goal is stability, and there has to be a cost-benefit analysis.”

Meanwhile, Guangzhou, a manufacturing hub home to more than 18 million people, looks disturbingly primed to follow in Shanghai’s footsteps, as COVID cases spread and travel to the city is sealed off.


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