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China Health & Science

‘The Last Downer’: China and the End of Down Syndrome

With screenings for Down syndrome becoming more advanced, there are less and less babies being born with Down in China every year. Unborn babies with Down syndrome are allowed to be aborted to up to nine months of pregnancy.

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New screenings that can predict if an unborn baby has Down syndrome have sparked wide debate across the world – mostly because their results often lead to parents choosing for abortion. The ethical debate that is so alive in many countries seems practically non-existent in China, where Down syndrome is slowly disappearing from society. Unborn babies with Down syndrome are allowed to be aborted to up to the ninth month of pregnancy; 21% of Down-related abortions in China occur during or after the seventh month.

Last month was World Down Dyndrome Day (世界唐氏综合征日, March 21) and next month marks China’s National Disability Day (全国助残日, May 15) – both are occasions when Chinese media pay extra attention to Down syndrome, a disorder that is slowly disappearing from Chinese society.

On World Down Syndrome Day, Chinese state media broadcaster CCTV wrote on its Weibo account: “Currently, medical science does not have effective prevention and treatment methods for Down syndrome, but it can be detected early through prenatal screening. You might have seen this kind of face: mouth slightly open, a blank expression, eyes somewhat wide apart,.. break your prejudices and understand them!” This text is accompanied by different facts about Down syndrome pictured with a cartoon baby on CCTV’s account page (pictured below).

angrbaby

“I’m still nervously awaiting the results of the amniotic fluid test,” one netizen responds to the post: “I hope my baby is healthy and normal.”

On Chinese social media, many expecting mothers express their worries about screening results and the health of their unborn child. But the ethical debate that is so alive in many other countries about Down syndrome screening and abortion seems practically non-existent in China. One Weibo user comments: “In foreign countries, there are many mothers raising kids with Down, because their religion does not allow them to abort the baby.”

 

THE LAST DOWNER

“New medical techniques and the ethical questions that come with it have caused ample discussion on Down syndrome in many nations across the world.”

 

Down syndrome (DS) is a congenital disorder caused by a chromosome defect, that exists in all regions worldwide. Children with DS often have an intellectual disability and are also affected physically in their appearance and general health. Down syndrome has an incidence of 1 in 600–1000 live births, differing per country (UN; Wang et al 2013, 273). The disorder was named after John Langdon Down, the British physician who first classified this genetic disorder in 1862. In Chinese, it is known as 唐氏综合征 (Tángshì zònghézhēng) or as 先天愚型 (Xiāntiān yúxíng), the latter literally meaning ‘naturally stupid-type’.

With new techniques, it has become easier for doctors to safely detect whether or not a fetus has Down syndrome. In many countries, women can now choose for first-trimester prenatal screenings that can indicate the likelihood they are carrying a baby with Down syndrome. These tests can be followed up with diagnostic tests, either through amniocentesis (amniotic fluid test) or a DNA blood test, that can give a conclusive answer. If the unborn baby turns out to have DS, parents often have the option to abort it.

These new medical techniques and the ethical questions that come with them have caused ample discussions on Down syndrome in many nations across the world. Denmark introduced national guidelines for prenatal screening and diagnosis as early as 2004, which has led to an all-time low of Danish infants with Down syndrome – 95%-98% of pregnant women choose to abort a fetus with DS (Vice 2015). This means that Down could become something of the past; not just in Denmark, but also in other countries that have followed its example after 2004.

According to anti-abortion media, what is happening in Denmark is a “targeted form of genocide.” In the United States, the test has also become a focus of controversy, as it is intertwined with America’s general debate over abortion.

NRC

The Dutch TV-series ‘The Last Downer’ explored the gradual disappearance of Down Syndrome. The show was co-hosted by two young adults who were born with DS themselves. Photo via NPO/NRC of TV Show “De Laatste Downer.”

 

In the Netherlands, a TV show revolving around ‘the end of Down syndrome’ was recently aired on national television. The series, that was titled ‘The Last Downer’, explored what society loses if Down syndrome disappears. It also talked about the ethical, social and psychological consequences of having a child with Down syndrome. ‘The Last Downer’ also triggered debate, as some critics deemed that it was too much in favor of the pro-life movement.

 

DOWN SYNDROME IN CHINA

“21% of abortions related to DS in China take place after the 28th week of pregnancy.”

 

In China, it is estimated that 1 out of 700 infants are affected with Down syndrome. Although this percentage is relatively low compared to other countries, it is an enormous figure nevertheless due to China’s huge population (Deng et al 2015, 311).

China’s Ministry of Health has promoted nationwide prenatal screenings for birth defects since 2003 (312). As pointed out in recent Chinese research, there has since been a sharp increase in the percentage of prenatal diagnosis and consequential birth termination (Deng et al 2015, 315).

The detection of Down syndrome through prenatal diagnosis in China went from nearly 13% in 2003 to over 69% in 2011 – with urban women having better access to early screenings and diagnosis than women living in the more rural areas of China. Around 95% of women terminate their pregnancy after learning the baby has DS, which is close to similarly high numbers in countries like Denmark or Hungary.

What is different in China, is that abortions can take place up to the ninth month of pregnancy.* In nearly 80% of the cases where the DS diagnosis led to abortion, this termination took place before 28 weeks. In the other cases, the pregnancy was terminated later than 28 weeks; meaning that 21% of abortions related to DS take place after the 28th week of pregnancy (ibid. 2015, 315).** In, for example, the Netherlands, abortion can take place up to 24 weeks of pregnancy, which is determined as the moment after which a fetus would be able to survive outside the uterus. Denmark allows for abortions to take place until the 12th week of pregnancy.

Chinese doctors encourage screening more strongly when pregnant women are older. According to current regulations in China, pregnant women aged 35 or above will be suggested to have an amniocentesis test directly, and, as research points out, “most Chinese women opt to abort fetuses with malformations” (Deng et al 2015, 316). Overall, the prevalence of prenatal diagnosis of DS and the number of related abortions is higher in urban areas than in China’s rural areas due to better medical facilities in cities. This also suggests that the majority of babies with DS are now born in the countryside, where parents do not always have access to the medical care they need.

 

ABORTION IS OKAY

“Bright-pink advertisements on ‘painless abortions’ depict smiling women, butterflies and flowers.”

 

On Weibo, many netizens share their experiences with prenatal screening. One pregnant woman says the test has cost her 191 RMB (±30 US$), another netizen responds: “In my hometown, these screenings are free of charge!” Another Weibo user shares her anxiousness: “I’ve been worrying about this Down screening all week,” she writes on April 21st. The following day, she replies to the comments with crying emoticons.

Although the screenings are a big issue on Chinese social media, the ethical question of the abortions is seemingly not. This might relate to the fact that abortion is not as contentious in China as it is in many other countries.

Pregnancy termination became quite common in China during the 20th century in relation to the one-child policy. By now, China has the highest abortion rate in the world. According to the National Health and Family Planning Commission, 13 million abortions are carried out in China every year. The actual number is probably much higher, as the official number does not include the abortion numbers from private clinics, nor the estimated 10 million induced abortions per year through medicine (Xinhua 2014), nor the numbers of sex-selective abortions– a practice that has officially been illegal since 2004.

The prevalence of abortions in China has led to a booming industry focused on abortion procedures. Bright-pink advertisements on ‘painless abortions’ depict smiling women, butterflies and flowers.

beaqueen

Some even promise that the abortion will be over within ‘a dreamlike three minutes’ (for more on this read: Glamorous & Painless – China’s Booming Abortion Industry). Although China has a painful past when it comes to forced abortions, the personal choice for abortion is not as controversial as it is in many countries where the Down syndrome detection debate is more alive.

abortion

“I’m drinking fresh rosedew after my abortion,” one netizen writes: “It’s good for my cold womb.”

 

THE HARDSHIPS OF DOWN CHILDREN IN CHINA

“Giving a child with Down syndrome up for adoption is very difficult, as China’s DS children are generally deemed ‘unadoptable’.”

 

Besides the fact that abortion is considered relatively uncontroversial in China, the high rate of abortions for DS-diagnosed babies might also relate to the fact that disabled children face many difficulties in China due to stigmatization and practical hurdles.

Raising a handicapped child is a heavy burden for many parents in China, who receive little government support and often do not have the means to make sure their child gets the medical care and education they need. This means that abandoning the child sometimes is the only solution for parents to make sure their child is taken into an institution (Yoxall 2008, 25).

downer

Giving a child with Down syndrome up for adoption is very difficult, as China’s DS children are generally deemed ‘unadoptable‘. Until recently, it was legally not possible to adopt a child with Down within China. Since this has now changed, international organizations like the Bamboo Project help parents who want to adopt a child with Down syndrome from China.

 

SCREENINGS FOR DOWN: ANXIETY & CONFUSION

“If your baby has Down syndrome, you can’t keep it – you do understand this, don’t you?”

 

In China’s urban areas, first-trimester screenings for DS (唐氏筛查) through a blood test have become practically mandatory. Some clinics have 100% screening guidelines for all of their patients, but do ask parents to sign for consent first; other hospitals simply proceed to include the test with general pregnancy check-ups without any permission.

Screening procedures differ per hospital and can be confusing for expecting mothers: “Today my doctor told me that because I am already 35, I should do an amniocentesis test,” one netizen writes on Weibo: “but the blood test in my first trimester indicated I had low risk of having a baby with Down. I’m very confused if I should do it or not.”

China’s screening procedures and prevalent attitudes on how to deal with a baby that possibly has DS can be shocking to some. A 31-year-old Dutch mum named Anna (alias), who lives in Shanghai, recently shared her experiences on Facebook. Anna, pregnant with her second baby, writes:

I was unable to come on Facebook for some time due to problems with my VPN. During this period, I’ve come across something that I loathe even more than China’s internet censorship. “They’ve tried calling you but you didn’t pick up,” the Chinese nurse tells me while looking up from a form, as she points me to an examination room. I walk in, and ask the doctor what’s going on – I vaguely remember a ‘standard’ blood test (..) – “‘You have an increased risk for a child with a mental disability,’ the doctor straightforwardly tells me. ‘Excuse me?’ – I ask her to repeat her sentence. ‘The child might be retarded,’ she tells me.

Anna writes: “In the Netherlands, the availability of prenatal tests for Down syndrome has caused quite some controversy earlier this year. It is not allowed for doctors to proactively encourage women to do this test unless there’s an increased risk for them to have a child with an intellectual disability – because they are above the age of 40, for example. But this is not the case in China, where every pregnant woman, no matter her age, is tested for heightened risk through blood screening. I ask the doctor what the test results are, since I’m only 31. ‘Well, that’s not like being 21 anymore, now it is?’ she snarls at me.”

Anna explains that the results of her blood test showed there was a 1-in-200 chance her baby had Down syndrome. After informing Anna about this, the doctor says: “You can choose if you now want an amniocentesis or a DNA test. The first is more expensive and needs to be done in a private clinic, here’s an information leaflet, just think about it.”

She chooses to do the DNA test, which is safer for mothers and their unborn babies than the amniocentesis. She says: “I was initially just shocked to hear there was an increased risk for me to have a child with a disorder, but it also bothered me that the initial screening was done without my consent. I ask the doctor what happens if my baby turns out to have Down syndrome. ‘Then you can’t keep it,’ she gives me a piercing look: ‘You do understand this, don’t you?’

Anna writes: “She advised me to timely book a possible abortion, but that the procedure would be possible until 32 (!) weeks.” Anna receives the DNA test results a week later through text message, and her baby shows no signs of abnormalities. Despite her relief, she feels uncomfortable about the intrusive way in which her prenatal screening and its possible outcome was handled.

Another foreigner living in Beijing told What’s on Weibo they also were tested for Down syndrome risks in the first trimester of pregnancy at Beijing United hospital without being asked for permission first. Although they were surprised to get the results, they did not react strongly to it as the test turned out to be very low risk.

Although the ethical debate on this issue is generally lacking from mainstream media, one story did make headlines last year when a woman from Hubei was determined to end her pregnancy at 16 weeks because of the Down syndrome screening. The initial blood screenings showed an increased risk of DS, and the woman arranged an abortion – in spite of the doctors convincing her that she should wait for the actual diagnoses screening first. This story also shows how intertwined prenatal screenings and abortion have become.

 

DS IN CHINA: TABOOS AND SOCIAL STIGMA

“I think my sister’s baby has Down syndrome, but I am too afraid to ask her.”

 

Chinese netizens share their experience with Down syndrome on various online message boards. One netizen tells how it is growing up with a brother with Down syndrome. “My brother was born prematurely and was in weak health. The doctor told my parents to just give up on him. But my father refused to give up, because it was a boy, and he thinks boys are worth more than girls. So my brother lived.” The netizen tells how his parents were told by doctors that their child was simply “hopeless”, and that his brother was always teased in school.

On message board Douban, multiple netizens share how doctors encourage couples to have an abortion if their unborn baby is diagnosed with DS.  The discussion of Down on Chinese social media shows that DS is heavily stigmatized and that it is sometimes also considered a taboo.  Some netizens tell about former classmates with Down who were constantly bullied, and one netizen writes: “I think my sister’s baby has Down syndrome, but I am too afraid to ask her.”

Now that rapidly advancing medical techniques have decreased the prevalence of DS in China, chances are that the less common the disorder is, the more stigmatized it will become. It is also probable that over the next one or two decades, if rural areas get better access to medical care, Down syndrome will altogether disappear from China.
downsscreening

For China’s upcoming ‘day for the handicapped’, multiple organizations try to raise more public awareness for Down syndrome. This year, the day will specifically focus on handicapped orphans. For this occasion Chinese media recently wrote about an orphanage in Tianjin, where one-third of all children are Down syndrome babies who were left behind by their parents.

Although the article describes children with DS as little “happy angels”, one Chinese birth clinic seems to think otherwise. In their ad (see image), their message is loud and clear: “Reject children with Down syndrome! Give birth to a healthy baby!” Angels or not, modern-day China seems to have no place for Down syndrome children.

– By Manya Koetse

[rp4wp]

References

Wang, S.-S., Wang, C., Qiao, F.-Y., Lv, J.-J. & Feng, L. 2013. “Polymorphisms in genes RFC-1/CBS as maternal risk factors for Down syndrome in China.” Arch Gyneocol Obstet 288: 273-277.

Deng, C., Yi, L., Mu, Y., Zhu, J., Qin, Y., Fan, X., Li, Q. & Dai, L. 2015. “Recent trends in the birth prevalence of Down syndrome in China: impact of prenatal diagnosis and subsequent terminations.” Prenatal Diagnosis, 35(4), 311–318.

Yoxal, James W. 2008. China’s Social Policy: Meeting the Needs of Orphaned and Disabled Children. Master Thesis, Union Institute & University.

NB: other references are linked to in-text.

* As written by Deng et al (2015): “Following a systemic and standardized diagnostic process, pregnancy affected by severe anomalies such as DS is allowed to be terminated at any gestational age following informed consent” (312).

** According to 2003-2011 surveillance data, study by Deng et al uses data from the Chinese Birth Defects Monitoring Network.

©2016 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer, public speaker, and researcher (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends, digital developments, and new media in an ever-changing China, with a focus on Chinese society, pop culture, and gender issues. She shares her love for hotpot on hotpotambassador.com. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

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3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Colette

    July 18, 2016 at 1:02 am

    In the UK termination for DS is also permitted until 9 months………Lord Shinkwin is trying to change this.

  2. jack

    October 27, 2016 at 3:40 am

    The truth is the chinese and the Japanese are a mongoloid race they were created from the daughters of a man called Lot the nephew of abraham in the bible read the story of Sodom and gomorrah this will tell of Lots two daughters and there plan…the modern day chinese are the moabites and the Japanese are the modern day ammonites,incest causes down syndrome or retardation these two nations are the product of incest…BASTARD babies…truth is hard to accept

    • Anonymous

      December 27, 2016 at 6:11 am

      Please go back to /pol/.

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China Health & Science

Shanghai ‘Dead Man’ Taken Away to Morgue, Found to Be Alive

An incident in which a man taken to a morgue turned out to be alive doesn’t really help to restore residents’ trust in Shanghai.

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An incident in which a Shanghai man, who was thought to be dead, was taken to a funeral home before he was found to be alive has become a big topic on Chinese social media.

The incident happened on the afternoon of May 1st at the Shanghai Xinchangzheng Nursing Home (上海新长征福利院) in the city’s Putuo District.

A video of the incident went viral on Chinese social media in which a body bag can be seen put into a vehicle by three people, two members of staff from the nursing home and one funeral home worker. Shortly after, the body bag is taken out again and put back on a trolley. One of the nurses zips open the bag, pulls a cover from the man’s face, and apparently finds him to be alive.

“He’s alive,” one of the workers says in shock: “He’s alive, I saw it, he’s alive. Don’t cover him any more.”

The man is then transferred back into the nursing home, still inside the body bag.

The video that is making its rounds on social media was filmed from two different angles, the person filming can be heard calling the incident “a disgrace for human life” and “irresponsible.”

On May 2nd, the Chinese state media outlet People’s Daily posted about the incident on Weibo, saying the city district is currently investigating the case. The man was hospitalized and his vital signs are stable.

Meanwhile, multiple people are held accountable for the incident. The head of the nursing home has been dismissed and will be further investigated, along with four district officials. The license of the doctor involved will also be revoked.

The Shanghai Xinchangzheng Nursing Home has also apologized for the incident (#上海一福利院就未死亡老人被拉走道歉#).

On social media, many people are angry about the incident, wondering why the old man was transported to the funeral home in the first place, and why the members of staff seemed to be indifferent after finding out he was still alive.

In the video, the member of staff standing next to the man can be seen covering the patient’s face again after finding out he is still alive, leaving the body bag zipped up. Many also see this as a cold and incomprehensible way to respond.

After weeks of online anger about the chaotic and sometimes inhumane way in which Shanghai authorities have been handling the Covid outbreak in the city, this incident seems to further lower the public’s trust in how patients and vulnerable residents are being treated.

“Shanghai is such a terrifying place!”, some on Weibo write.

“Just think about it,” one person responded: “This incident took place in one of China’s most prosperous cities and happened to be filmed. How much is happening in other cities that is not caught on camera? Today, it’s this man, in the future, it’s us.”

For more articles on the Covid-19 topics on Chinese social media, check here.

By Manya Koetse, with contributions by Miranda Barnes

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China and Covid19

Trending on Weibo: “Why Can’t Shanghai Residents with Covid-19 Recover at Home?”

While Chinese top experts stress that Covid patients can not recover at home, Shanghai’s centralized quarantine locations are anything but a home away from home.

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According to China’s strict Covid measures, everyone testing positive during Shanghai’s current outbreak needs to go to a centralized quarantine location. While Chinese top experts say home isolation is not an option, Shanghai residents complain about the deplorable conditions at the isolation centers.

While Shanghai is battling the worst Covid outbreak the city has ever seen and infection numbers continue to rise, today’s number one hashtag on social media platform Weibo is: “Why Can’t People Infected with Covid-19 Isolate at Home?” (#新冠感染者为什么不能居家隔离#).

Trending topic list of Weibo, April 11 2022.

Since Shanghai’s current outbreak started on March 1, the city’s 26 million residents have been seeing stringent anti-epidemic measures, including a citywide lockdown and mass testing campaigns. This month, frustrations have been building among residents who struggle to get food, medications, and urgent medical care amid China’s dynamic zero-infection policy.

China’s so-called ‘zero-Covid policy’ is all about rapidly responding to new Covid cases, precise prevention measures, and controlling and extinguishing local outbreaks as fast as possible to avoid further spread of the virus and drastically reduce the number of people getting sick and dying. As part of this strategy, people who test positive for Covid-19 are sent to centralized facilities for a mandatory quarantine.

It’s not just people at home who have been struggling during this lockdown – many also face difficulties in getting basic medical care or adequate supplies at these centralized quarantine centers. Videos circulating on Chinese social media expose how people at some isolation facilities are fighting over food or are facing unhygienic living conditions.

The apparent disorganization at some quarantine facilities has triggered discussions on Chinese social media, where many are wondering why people who barely show any Covid symptoms should still be quarantined at centralized locations. Besides the fact that many of these quarantine facilities are far less comfortable than people’s own home environment (there are usually no private rooms, no showers, etc), people also fear cross-infection or re-infection due to the crowded and sometimes chaotic living conditions.

The state of the toilets at one Pudong quarantine location.

Due to a lack of medical staff, many of these facilities cannot offer adequate medical care to Covid patients who need it. Additionally, people who test positive for Covid-19 and are required to go to a quarantine location also cannot take care of pets or vulnerable family members who test negative and are left at home by themselves.

Last week, two dog owners who were taken away to a quarantine location left their Corgi dog on the streets because they feared it would starve to death if they would leave it inside their home. The dog was killed by an anti-epidemic worker shortly after. This incident also triggered massive outrage online and fuelled discussions on the need to be quarantined at a designated location rather than being allowed to stay at home.

On Weibo, the hashtag “Why Can’t People Infected with Covid-19 Isolate at Home?” received over 160 million views on Monday. The topic was initiated by the Daily Economic News (@每日经济新闻) account, which posted a video showing the renowned Chinese top epidemiologist Liang Wannian (梁万年) stressing the importance of China’s zero-Covid strategy and centralized isolation policy in light of the rapid growth in Omicron infections.

According to Liang, isolating asymptomatic or mildly ill Covid patients at home may cause further spread of the virus, especially because Omicron spreads so quickly. Even though they have mild symptoms, these Covid patients are still contagious and could spread the virus to their families and beyond. Liang also argued that patients need to be isolated at a centralized location because they can be easily monitored and treated that way.

Liang also addressed the problem of ‘people waiting for beds’ (“人等床”). Some people from Shanghai sharing their Covid journey online have expressed their frustration with being taken away for quarantine days or even weeks after they tested positive. The Shanghai-based Italian producer Alessandro Pavanello detailed his Covid experience on Instagram, where he wrote that he tested positive on March 26 but was not taken away for quarantine until April 9th. By that time, two entire weeks after his positive test, he already tested negative again but still needed to go to a centralized isolation site.

Liang Wannian called Shanghai’s fight against the virus an issue of systematic project management, where the problems within the process of screening, diagnosing and a rapid transfer and treatment need to be solved in order to stop continuous transmission of the virus: patients should not wait for beds, beds should be waiting for patients (“床等人”).

On Saturday, China’s largest-ever makeshift hospital opened its doors in Shanghai. The hospital at the National Exhibition Convention Center has a capacity of 50,000 beds for Covid-19 patients, and there are more than 5000 members of medical staff and 10,000 people doing logistics and supporting work (Xing & Cao 2022).

Meanwhile, more Chinese officials and experts are emphasizing the importance of sticking to the “dynamic zero-COVID strategy” as the best way forward for China. Zhang Wenhong (张文宏), head of the infectious disease department at Fudan’s Huashan Hospital, was also quoted by China Daily on Monday as saying that the pressing task for China now is to contain the epidemic in Shanghai and to cut off the transmission in communities so that normal life and production in the city can resume.

China Daily also reported that prominent Chinese pulmonologist Zhong Nanshan (钟南山) gave a lecture on Friday in which he suggested that co-existing with the virus and lifting the restrictions does not fit China’s situation since it would allegedly lead to many deaths: “In China, we should stick to the dynamic zero-COVID strategy and ease policies gradually in the future,” he said (Wang 2022, 3).

 
Shanghai’s mandatory quarantine implementation: lacking logic
 

On Weibo, thousands of people have commented on the “Why Can’t People Infected with Covid-19 Isolate at Home?” hashtag. Many agree with the centralized quarantine measures, as they fear that the virus would otherwise quickly spread in Shanghai’s densely populated areas and high-rise buildings through, for example, ventilation systems or shared facilities.

But there is also a lot of criticism. Although the Weibo post by Daily Economic News had received over 3300 replies on Monday, only a handful of comments were viewable at the time of writing. Another post containing the video received 222 replies, but none of them were displayed. “The comment section just shows ten comments, does it mean that the other 3000 people didn’t agree?”, one Weibo user wondered.

Another Weibo user described her experiences at an isolation site, posting photos of the conditions there. She writes:

“Up to now, I’ve always supported Shanghai’s active disease prevention. We have been isolated at home since early March. Ten tests we did all came up normal, but the last one unexpectedly came up positive. They took us to an isolation site. If the conditions had just been a bit better, we’d be okay with it, but this is just unimaginable. These are the facts. Over 800 people have entered this facility since April 9, their ages varying from seventy or eighty years old to babies just a few months old.

1. Inside the factory building, there are plank beds without mattresses, there are no people to clean.
2. There is no supervisor, we need to fight over our food.
3. There are not enough supplies, not even enough toiletpaper.
4. 80% of the toilets are clogged, there’s nobody to clean them.
5. There are no doctors and nobody to take care of patients with a fever.
6. There is no one to dispose of the garbage.
7. The weather’s hot, but there’s no place to shower or change clothes.

I really hope the relevant departments will pay attention to the fact that the dirty environment may cause other diseases and lead to more serious secondary hazards.”

“The conditions at home are definitely much better than at the makeshift hospitals,” one Weibo blogger wrote.

There are also posts commenting on how Shanghai’s mandatory quarantine strategy implementation is devoid of logic, making people isolate who have already recovered from Covid (like the aforementioned example of the Italian man). One netizen wrote about her friend who tested positive, recovered at home by herself, tested negative multiple times, and only received a call from the Center of Disease Control days later that she had to go to a quarantine location. She asked them to come to her house to do a test, so she could show them she had recovered, but the CDC refused due to “lack of staff” and still made her go to the facility for 14 days, stuck in between Covid positive people without enough medical staff and a lack of supplies. “This is Shanghai,” the blogger wrote.

Another Weibo user also published a lengthy post about their experiences getting to a Shanghai quarantine location. Like many others, this Weibo user also tested negative again and was still required to go to a centralized isolation site without getting any information on where he would be taken or how long he would be gone.

Together with many people who tested positive for Covid, he was inside a bus for hours without any access to water or toilets. When he finally reached the isolation site, he found that people who tested negative and positive were all mixed together – and that there was not a single doctor at the entire facility. Angry and frustrated, he wrote on Weibo:

“Before I put pen to paper, I hesitated if I should write down the facts of what is happening to us and if it would only bring more worry and stress to my friends and family, but after thinking twice I still think that all the people outside, no matter where you are, need to understand what we are going through and realize how different the reality is from the reports.”

For more articles on the Covid-19 topics on Chinese social media, check here.

By Manya Koetse

Get the story behind the hashtag. Subscribe to What’s on Weibo here to receive our weekly newsletter and get access to our latest articles:

References (online sources are linked to in text)

Wang, Xiaoyu. 2022. “Virus Highly Infectious, But Unlike Flu.” China Daily (Hong Kong), April 11, page 3.

Xing, Yi and Cao Yin. 2022. “Giant Makeshift Hospital to Ease Treatment Burden.” China Daily (Hong Kong), April 9, page 1.

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