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China and Covid19

Searching for Yue: Contact Tracing Information Exposes Sad Story Behind One Beijing Covid Case

Because Yue tested positive for Covid19, the entire country came to know the recent whereabouts of “the hardest-working man of China.”

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While being quarantined due to Covid19, he is going viral on Chinese social media. “The hardest-working Chinese man in contact tracing” has touched the hearts of many netizens, leading to public questions about the disappearance of his son – a story without a happy ending.

On January 18, one person tested positive for Covid19 in Chaoyang District, Beijing. That person, who was asymptomatic, was one of the three reported cases of Covid19 detected in the Chinese capital on Tuesday.

The patient’s contact tracing records showed that from January 1st of this year to January 18, in a time frame of 18 days, he went to many districts in Beijing and worked odd jobs all around the clock at more than twenty different construction sites throughout the city. This earned him the title of “the hardest-working Chinese man in contact tracing” (“流调中最辛苦的中国人”).

Yue went all around the city working odd jobs all around the clock.

In China News Weekly (中国新闻周刊), reporter Chao Xiang (赵翔) interviewed the Chaoyang Covid patient and provided more information about him. That article, titled “A Conversation with the ‘Hardest-Working Chinese in Contact Tracing Records'” (“对话”流调中最辛苦的中国人””) soon went viral on Chinese social media. (Pekingnology did a full translation on the article here).

Who is this hard-working and industrious man? It is the 44-year-old Mr. Yue, a migrant worker from Shandong’s Weihai who rents a tiny room in Shigezhuang for 700 yuan ($110) per month. Just as he was about to start his train journey from Beijing South Station to go home to his wife and youngest son in Weihai, anti-epidemic workers alerted him that he had tested positive for Covid19 and got him off the train.

While was immediately quarantined at a designated hospital in Beijing, his recent movements and personal story soon became a major item of discussion on WeChat and Weibo after a press conference and media release detailed his recent whereabouts (#北京朝阳无症状感染者轨迹公布#).

Although Yue formerly worked as a sailor, he is now a manual laborer in construction in Beijing. He started working in the city in search of his eldest son, who went missing at the age of 19 and who previously worked as a kitchen helper in Beijing.

Yue Yuetong (岳跃仝)

Yue’s son, Yue Yuetong (岳跃仝), allegedly complained about a stomach ache when he was working at a food factory in Rongcheng, Weihai, in the summer of 2020. He was supposed to take a bus home, but he never got on that bus and never returned home again. Besides Beijing and Rongcheng, Mr. Yue went to a least ten other cities looking for his son, always believing that he could not have gone very far and that it was possible to find him.

Authorities allegedly were not very helpful in setting up a thorough search for the then 19-year-old. Yue told China News Weekly that it took weeks before the family could officially register Yue Yuetong as a missing person. Mr. Yue also claimed that the police did not trace his phone records and video surveillance in the initial days after he went missing due to privacy reasons.

Yue tells China News Weekly (translation by Pekingnology):

I also asked in the hospital morgues. On October 12th, 2021, they [not clear who] saw me were petitioning, and told me that a corpse was of my eldest son, and asked me to go to Rongcheng Second Hospital to identify the corpse. I saw that man, whose face was hard to see but fat and round. My son is 1.74 meters tall, thin, and has a long face. I don’t think that was my son. I asked to test the bones of the body, but they weren’t willing to do that. They initially said the test would be done at Weihai Public Security Bureau which would take dozens of days. Later, it was said that the forensic doctor was on a business trip. After half a month, they/he [unclear] called me and said don’t bother them/him anymore.

My wife couldn’t stop crying when she heard that our eldest son was dead. I don’t believe that corpse was my son.

When this dead body was first discovered, I asked the police station, and they said it was not my eldest son. As soon as I began petitioning, they said it was my eldest son in order to close the case.”

All the money Yue earns has gone towards the search for his son and towards his parents who suffer from multiple health problems. The medicine and medical costs for his bedridden paralyzed father and for his mother, who recently broke her arm, are not covered by insurance and Yue does all he can to cover these for them. His wife makes a meager income and his youngest son, who is only 12, is attending junior high school.

Despite his tough life, Yue told China News Weekly he does not feel sorry for himself.

There are multiple reasons why Yue’s story struck a chord with Chinese netizens. One of the reasons is that although his story stands out, he is not the only one facing such difficulties in China today. In that regard, the responses to Yue’s story bear some resemblance to the reactions dominating social media after the publications of the essay by Fan Yusu, a female migrant worker living in Beijing.

Her story about her life and struggles with work, marriage and family became a viral hit in 2017 (read more here). At the time, commenters wrote “We are all Fan Yusu,” suggesting that Fan’s account was just one voice among thousands of migrant workers dealing with similar problems and struggles.

“Yue is not the only hard-working Chinese person,” one commenter wrote, with another person writing: “I might work even more than him.”

Numerous netizens said Yue’s story made them tear up due to his dignity and resilience, something that many people admire him for – especially at a time of Covid19.

There were also many who hoped that Yue, who received so much attention over his peculiar contact tracing records, could use his sudden, unexpected fame to his advantage to get the help of the public and police to finally find his son. The calls to conduct a massive search for Yue’s son also came with criticism for how the case was apparently handled by authorities back in 2020 and 2021.

The hashtag “Yue Yuetong Come Home” (#岳跃仝请回家#) soon went trending on Chinese social media, together with the hashtag “The Internet Helps Searching for Yue Yuetong” (#全网帮忙寻找岳跃仝#).

The missing person flyer for Yue Yuetong from 2020.

Meanwhile, the police in Rongcheng responded to the public’s questions and comments on January 20th, saying they would re-investigate to “understand” the case.

On January 21st, Weihai authorities issued a statement regarding the story. The statement explains that the Rongcheng City Public Security Bureau was notified on the evening of August 12 of 2020 by Li, Yue’s wife, that her son had gone missing earlier that day after he left work.

The police claim that their team investigated the case and tracked Yue Yuetong’s last known movements and retrieved surveillance details. After their search efforts did not result in any leads, they classified Yuetong as a missing person.

On August 26 of 2020, two weeks after Yue Yueyong went missing, the Rongcheng authorities learned of a deceased person and found a man’s body. After his DNA was compared to the DNA from Yuetong’s parents, the authorities confirmed that the remains belonged to Yue Yuetong. They also said there were no suspicious circumstances surrounding his death.

According to the statement, Yue Yuetong’s parents refused to believe that the deceased man was their son. Despite repeated attempts made by the local police to communicate to the family that their ongoing requests to find their missing son were in vain, the family did not want to accept the facts. The remains have been transferred to a funeral home.

One Weibo commenter wrote: “So to summarize this, they already knew their son was dead around ten days after he went missing, but they could not accept it and traveled the entire country to look for him…I’m speechless. What a tragedy.”

“So, their son was actually already gone two years ago.. but they couldn’t identify him because he’d bee in the water and the parents did not want to believe it despite the DNA results. They kept searching for two year. How sad!”

Other people criticized the police for not apologizing to the family about the circumstances surrounding the investigation into their son’s disappearance, and also express their hope that Mr. Yue can receive psychological help at the Beijing hospital where he is still being treated for Covid.

Ironically, it was his bad luck of catching Covid19 and his remarkable contact tracing records that triggered the public’s interest and finally put an end to the long and costly search for his son.

Despite the official statement, there are still lingering questions left unanswered. Why did the police allow Mr. Yue and his wife to continue searching for their son for so long if they already knew he was dead? Why was Mr. Yue so convinced that the body that was found was not his son? How and why did Yue Yuetong die? Many of these questions might never be answered. One thing that the majority of those discussing this topic agree on is that they wish Mr. Yue a speedy recovery, hoping that he will be able to find some peace of mind after struggling for so long.

By Manya Koetse, with contributions by Miranda Barnes

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2022 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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China and Covid19

Fangcang Forever: China’s Temporary Covid19 Makeshift Hospitals To Become Permanent

China’s temporary ‘Fangcang’ shelter hospitals are here to stay.

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A new term has been added to China’s pandemic lexicon today: Permanent Fangcang Hospital. Although China’s ‘Fangcang’ shelter hospitals are, by definition, temporary, these healthcare facilities to isolate and treat Covid patients are now becoming a permanent feature of China’s Zero-Covid approach.

Over the past few days, Chinese authorities have emphasized the need for China’s bigger cities to build or renovate existing makeshift Covid hospitals, and turn them into permanent sites.

So-called ‘Fangcang hospitals’ (方舱医院, square cabin hospitals) are large, temporary makeshift shelter hospitals to isolate and treat Covid-19 patients. Fangcang shelter hospitals were first established in China during the Wuhan outbreak as a countermeasure to stop the spread of the virus.

January 5 2022, a Fangcang or Isolation Point with over 1000 separate isolations rooms is constructed in Baqiao District of Xi’an (Image via Renmin Shijue).

They have since become an important part of China’s management of the pandemic and the country’s Zero-Covid policy as a place to isolate and treat people who have tested positive for Covid-19, both asymptomatic and mild-to-moderate symptomatic cases. In this way, the Fangcang hospitals alleviate the pressure on (designated) hospitals, so that they have more beds for patients with serious or severe symptoms.

On May 5th, Chinese state media reported about an important top leadership meeting regarding China’s Covid-19 situation. In this meeting, the Politburo Standing Committee stressed that China would “unswervingly adhere to the general Zero-Covid policy” and that victory over the virus would come with persistence. At the meeting, chaired by Xi Jinping, the seven-member Politburo Standing Committee also declared that China would fight against any words or acts that “distort, doubt, or deny” the country’s dynamic Zero-Covid policy.

Life inside one of Shanghai’s Fangcang, photo via UDN.com.

Following the meeting, there have been multiple official reports and statements that provide a peek into China’s ‘zero Covid’ future.

On May 13, China’s National Health Commission called on all provinces to build or renovate city-level Fangcang hospitals, and to make sure they are equipped with electricity, ventilation systems, medical appliances, toilets, and washing facilities (Weibo hashtag ##以地级市为单位建设或者改造方舱医院#).

On May 16, the term ‘Permanent Fangcang Hospital’ (Weibo hashtag #永久性方舱医院) became a trending topic on Weibo after Ma Xiaowei (马晓伟), Minister of China’s National Health Commission, introduced the term in Qiushi (求是), the leading official theoretical journal of the Chinese Communist Party.

The term is new and is somewhat contradictory as a concept, since ‘Fangcang hospitals’ are actually defined by their temporary nature.

Ma Xiaowei stressed the need for Chinese bigger cities to be ready for the next stage of China’s Covid control. This also includes the need for some central ‘Fangcang’ makeshift hospitals to become permanent ones.

In order to ‘normalize’ the control and monitoring that comes with living in Zero-Covid society, Chinese provincial capitals and bigger cities (more than ten million inhabitants) should do more to improve Covid testing capacities and procedures. Ma proposes that there should be nucleic acid sample collection points across the city within a 15-minute walking distance radius, and testing frequency should be increased to maximize efficient control and prevention.

Cities should be prepared to take in patients for isolation and/or treatment at designated hospitals, centralized isolation sites, and the permanent Fangcang hospitals. The recent Covid outbreak in Shanghai showed that local authorities were unprepared to deal with the outbreak, and sites that were used as Fangcang hospitals often lacked proper facilities, leading to chaotic scenes.

A Fangcang Isolation Center in Quanzhou, March 2022, via People’s Daily.

The hashtag “Permanent Fangcang Hospitals” received over 140 million views on Weibo on Monday.

One of the Weibo threads by state media reporting on the Permanent Fangcang hospitals and the publication by Ma Xiaowei received nearly 2000 comments, yet the comment section only displayed three comments praising the newly announced measures, leaving out the other 1987 comments.

Elsewhere on Weibo, people shared their views on the Permanent Fangcang Hospitals, and most were not very positive – most commenters shared their worries about China’s Covid situation about the stringent measures being a never-ending story.

“We’re normalizing nucleic acid test, we’re introducing permanent fangcang hospitals, [but] why isn’t the third Covid vaccination coming through?” one person wondered.

“If there was still a little bit of passion inside me, it was just killed by reading these words ‘Permanent Fangcang Hospital,'” another commenter writes, with one Weibo user adding: “I feel desperate hearing the words ‘Permanent Fangcang Hospital.'”

“Building permanent Fangcang? Why? Why don’t you use the resources you’re now spending on normalizing testing to create more hospital beds, more medical staff and more medications?”

Another commenter wrote: “China itself is one giant permanent Fangcang hospital.”

“The forever Fangcang are being built,” one Weibo user from Guangdong writes: “This will never end. We’ll be locked up like birds in a cage for our entire life.”

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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Featured image via user tongtong [nickname] Weibo.com.

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China and Covid19

These Are China’s Ten Brand-New Stadiums That Will NOT Be Used for the 2023 Asia Cup

Billions were spent on the venues to host the Asia Cup, what will happen to them now that China will no longer be the host country?

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China’s withdrawal as the 2023 Asia Cup host leaves netizens wondering: “Will these newly built stadiums become Covid quarantine centers instead?” These are the ten stadiums that will not be used for next year’s Asia Cup.

News that China will no longer host the 2023 Asia Cup due to the Covid situation has left Chinese netizens wondering what will happen to the mega venues constructed especially for the event.

On Saturday, May 14, the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) released a statement saying that, following extensive discussions with the Chinese Football Association (CFA), they were informed by the CFA that it would not be able to host the 2023 AFC Asian Cup due to circumstances caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The event was planned to take place from June 16 to July 16, 2023, across ten Chinese cities: Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, Chongqing, Chengdu, Xi’an, Dalian, Qingdao, Xiamen, and Suzhou.

On Weibo, one popular post listed ten stadiums that were renovated or newly built to host the 2023 Asia Cup, adding the alleged (staggering) construction/renovation costs.

1. Xiamen Bailu Stadium: costs 3.5 billion [$515.5 million].
2. Qingdao Youth Football Stadium: costs 3.2 billion [$470 million].
3. Chongqing Longxing Stadium: costs 2.7 billion [$397.7 million].
4. Xi’an International Football Center: costs 2.395 billion [$352.7 million].
5. Dalian Suoyuwan Football Stadium: costs 1.88 billion [$277 million].
6. Chengdu Phoenix Hill Stadium: costs 1.865 billion [$274.7 million].
7. SAIC Motor Pudong Arena: costs 1.807 billion [$266 million].
8. Suzhou Kunshan Football Stadium: costs 1.6 billion [$235.6 million].
9. Tianjin Binhai Football Stadium: the renovation cost 320 million [$47 million].
10. New Beijing Gongti Stadium: renovation cost 280 million [$41.2 million].

All of these stadiums were built or renovated for the Asia Cup on a tight schedule, as there was just a three-year timeframe from design to construction completion. In the summer of 2019, it was confirmed that China would host the Asia Cup.

Now that these venues will not be used for the Asia Cup, many netizens are wondering what will happen to them.

One of the most popular answers to that question was: “Perhaps they should be turned into makeshift hospitals [fangcang].”

Fangcang, China’s ‘square cabin’ makeshift Covid hospitals, are seen as a key solution in China’s fight against the virus. Together with mass testing and local lockdowns, the Fangcang have become an important phenomenon in China’s dynamic zero-Covid policy.

Since every city needs quarantine locations to be prepared for a potential local outbreak, many people half-jokingly say the venues would be more useful as Covid isolation points if they are not used for the Asia Cup anyway.

“So many great stadiums, what a waste,” some commenters write, with others suggesting the stadiums should be opened up for the people to use and enjoy.

In response to China’s withdrawal as the 2023 Asia Cup host, another popular comment said: “China has taken the lead in achieving Zero at the level of major sports events,” jokingly referring to the country’s Zero-Covid policy that currently impacts all aspects of society.

For others, the announcement that China would not host the Asia Cup came as a shock. Not necessarily because of the cancelation of the event itself, but because it made them realize that China’s stringent measures and Zero-Covid policy can be expected to continue well into 2023: “How did it get this far? I thought the country would open up after the general meeting,” one person wrote, referring to the Communist Party National Congress that is set for autumn 2022.

Another Weibo user wrote: “They finally said it. The Asia Cup will be hosted by another country because our Strong Country will continue to stay sealed, the money spent on building all these venues is going to go to waste.”

“The point that many people missed is that the Asian Cup is no longer being held in China because China refuses to hold the event in ‘full open mode’ as requested by foreign countries,” another commenter wrote. Some people praised the decision, calling it “courageous” for China to persist in handling the pandemic in its own way.

Others are hopeful that all of the money spent on the venues won’t be in vain, and that China can use these venues to still host the World Cup in the future.

Below is the list of the ten brand-new venues where the Asia Cup is not going to take place.

 

1. The Xiamen Bailu Stadium (厦门白鹭体育场)

The Bailu Stadium in Xiamen is an impressive construction with a steel structure similar to that of Beijing Bird’s Nest, and, like most of the stadiums in this list, it was designed especially for the 2023 Asia Cup.

Expected to be finished by late 2022, the building does not just offer a beautiful sea view, it is also fully multifunctional and has a floor area of 180,600 square meters and a capacity of 60,000 seats. It is the first professional soccer stadium in China that can switch from a soccer field to an athletic field. The inner and outer circles of the seating area can be moved to transform the stadium.

 

2. Qingdao Youth Football Stadium (青岛青春足球场)

The Qingdao Youth Football Stadium, a high-standard soccer stadium with a capacity of 50,000 people, is the first major professional soccer stadium in Shandong Province.

The stadium, located in the city’s Chengyang District, started its construction in 2020 and the entire stadium with a floor area of 163,395 square meters, is expected to be finalized by late 2022.

 

3. Chongqing Longxing Stadium (重庆龙兴体育场)

Like most of the other stadiums on this list, the Chongqing Longxing Stadium started to be constructed in 2020 and the 60,000-capacity football stadium is expected to be finished in December 2022.

The design of the stadium is based on a twirling flame, meant to convey the hot image of Chongqing (the city of hotpot) and the burning Asian Cup football passion. Aerial photos published by state media in March of 2022 show that the construction of the roof and decorations has come to the final stage.

 

4. Xi’an International Football Center (西安国际足球中心)

The Xi’an International Football Center is a Zaha Hadid project, which is the same architects office to design prestigious buildings in China such as the Beijing Daxing International Airport or the Galaxy SOHO.

On their site, they write that the Footbal Centre, which started construction in 2020, is a 60,000-seat stadium in Xi’ans Fengdong New District. Besides the arena, the stadium will also provide recreational spaces for the city.

 

5. Dalian Suoyuwan Football Stadium (大连梭鱼湾足球场)

Located on the Dalian Bay, this is a spectacular new 63,000-capacity stadium that was, obviously, also meant to host the AFC Asian Cup in 2023 and to provide a home for the Dalian Professional Football Club.

An animation of the design for the Dalian Football Stadium can be viewed here.

 

6. Chengdu Phoenix Hill Stadium (成都凤凰山体育场)

The Chengdu Phoenix Hill Stadium consists of a a 60,000-seat stadium and an 18,000-seat standard arena. The large open-cable dome structure is reportedly the first of its kind in China.

Besides football, the venue will also be able to host other major tournaments, including ice hockey, badminton, table tennis, handball, and gymnastics.

 

7. SAIC Motor Pudong Arena (上汽浦东足球场)

The Shanghai Pudong Football Stadium, currently named SAIC Motor Pudong Arena, was supposed to be one of the stadiums used for the AFC Asian Cup, but it was not necessarily built for that purpose.

The 33,765-seat stadium, which is supposed to remind you of a Chinese porcelain bowl, is home to the football association Shanghai Port FC and was the first football-specific stadium designated for a club in China. Its construction, which started in 2018, was finished by late 2020.

 

8. Suzhou Kunshan Football Stadium (苏州昆山足球场)

The Suzhou Kunshan Football Stadium is the first professional soccer stadium in Jiangsu. With a total construction area of ​​135,000 square meters, the stadium can accommodate about 45,000 spectators.

The design of the building is inspired by the Chinese traditional “folding fan.” More pictures of the venue can be seen here.

 

9. Tianjin Binhai Football Stadium (天津滨海足球场)

The TEDA football stadium in Tianjin has been fully renovated and upgraded to host the 2023 Asia Cup. The stadium, build in 2004, originally could hold 37,450 people. The renovations of the original stadium started this year and the construction work was expected to take about six months.

 

10 . New Beijing Gongti Stadium (新北京工体)

Beijing’s old Workers’ Stadium or Gongti was closed in 2020 to be renovated and reopened bt December 2022, in time for the 2023 AFC Asian Cup. The Beijinger reported on the venue’s renovating process, with the stadium’s capacity increasing to 68,000, with the venue getting an all-new roof structure.

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

For more articles on hot topics related to architecture in China, 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:

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

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