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China and Covid19

Shanghai Residents Protest as Pudong Apartments Turn Into Quarantine Site

Shanghai residents at Zhangjiang Nashi International are angered about their community turning into a Covid quarantine site.

Manya Koetse

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A local protest in a Shanghai neighborhood where residents are angry about their community buildings being taken over and used as a quarantine site has now moved from the streets to the internet.

On Thursday, April 14, videos showing how Shanghai residents were dragged off by officers in medical suits went viral on Chinese social media. The footage allegedly shows a situation taking place at the Zhangjiang Nashi International apartment complex in Shanghai’s New Pudong Area (张江纳仕国际社区), where residents were notified on Thursday that several buildings within their community would be taken over and used as a quarantine isolation site for Covid-19 patients.

Videos showed members of police dressed in hazmat suits clashing with angry residents while a crowd of people stood by screaming and filming the chaotic scenes unfolding around them. Some images also showed residents on their knees, seemingly pleading with the officers.

Other videos also showed residents being dragged away.

According to various Weibo users from the area, the people from the complex, where some 500 people live, already had parts of their building being used as a quarantine site in March of this year. When they were notified that the makeshift quarantine location within their compound would be expanded, they protested the decision.

“I live in the Nashi complex (..) and like many of my neighbors, we have returned from abroad and we’re very patriotic. But anyone who would have this happening to them would be disillusioned.”

The incident was discussed on Weibo using various hashtags but was also heavily censored, with videos and images of the situation suddenly going offline. One video received over 15,000 likes before it was taken offline.

“Shanghai government, can you please be reasonable?!” some pleaded, while others posted images of the incident covered with red scribbles to avoid automated censorship: “If you delete this, I’ll post again! I’ll just post again!”

“Most police officers now are not helping people solve their problems, they are just maintaining social stability,” one Weibo commenter said.

Over the past week, frustrations have been building in Shanghai, where millions of households have been in lockdown since March 28 or earlier. Despite the stringent measures, the city’s total Covid-19 cases soared to another daily record of 27,719 on Thursday.

According to China’s dynamic zero-covid policy, people who test positive for Covid-19 are sent to centralized facilities for a mandatory quarantine. While locked-down residents have struggled to get food, medications, and urgent medical care amid China’s zero-infection policy, many also face difficulties in getting basic medical care or adequate supplies at these centralized quarantine centers, leading to growing anger about how the city is handling the current outbreak.

People spreading photos and videos of the Shanghai Zhangjiang community upheaval express anger, not just about the situation there but about the lockdown management in general (including some stories such as this one, or this one) and the censorship of issues reported by Shanghai residents.

While images, posts, and videos are censored at full speed, one person posts a screenshot of a WeChat conversation about the Zhangjiang incident.

– “Is this really Shanghai?”
– “I saw this. In the afternoon. Weibo won’t allow you to see anything anymore now.”
– “How could Shanghai have changed into this?”

As another person posted a new hashtag about the incident, there was just one thread left on Weibo by Thursday night shortly after 10pm Beijing time. “We just have this one thread,” commenters replied: “Everything is censored, this one won’t stick around for long either.”

“I wonder how long this post will last,” another Weibo blogger wondered, publishing photos of today’s incident. Their post has since been deleted.

Update April 15, 13:45 China Standard Time:

Shortly after this report, BBC also reported about the incident, after which Shanghai Daily reporter Andy Boreham provided some details on Twitter surrounding the protest, claiming that the buildings in questions are talent apartments (人才公寓) – discounted rental sites provided by the city for ‘talented’ people, usually in special areas hoping to attract highly skilled workers.

Boreham also claims that these apartments were provided to tenants on the basis that could be relocated at any time, which is also stated in their contracts. Although the tenants allegedly agreed on April 12 to be moved to another part of the complex, a group of them decided to resist when it came to relocating and tried to stop police from putting up barriers to isolate the building as a quarantine site. See the Twitter thread below.

The topic “Zhangjiang Nashi International Community” (张江纳仕国际社区) still comes up with zero results in Weibo’s search function after yesterday’s online turmoil. There is, however, one hashtag about the issue today, namely that initiated by China Real Estate News (@中国房地产报) about the Shanghai Zhangjiang Group responding to the use of talent apartments for quarantine housing (#上海张江集团回应人才公寓被征用为隔离房:疫情防控需要#). Chinese media outlet The Paper also published the brief statement.

The statement explains that the Zhangjiang Nashi Talent Apartment buildings are state-owned property rental housing built by the Zhangjiang real estate group, and that the talent apartments started to be used in August 2021. Since Shanghai’s Covid crisis, the city used five (unoccupied) buildings as a makeshift isolation site.

On April 12, the local government reportedly notified the Zhangjiang Group that it would also expropriate an additional nine buildings and use them as a central quarantine site. According to the Zhangjiang Group, they immediately notified the 39 tenants who needed to be relocated and gave compensation for lease changes.

But during the afternoon of April 14, when the planned quarantine site plans were set into motion, some tenants obstructed the construction site, and “relevant departments dealt with the situation on the spot.” The statement further said that the situation has since calmed down.

“I’d also recommend the houses of the people who make these decisions to be taken over and used as a quarantine site,” one commenter said: “So they can experience what it feels like to be driven out of your own home.”

Meanwhile, one anonymous contributor claiming to be one of the residents living in the Zhangjiang Nashi International community published a lengthy thread on the Chinese Q&A platform Zhihu.com, where they suggested that the statement by the Zhangjiang Group was misleading. The post was published in the early morning of April 15 just before 3am, but no longer shows up in Zhihu search function at time of writing.

“Firstly, Zhangjiang Nashi International is NOT a talent apartment! It’s NOT a talent apartment! It’s NOT!,” the author writes. The uploader claims that the community they live in is a regular residential area that only rents out apartments at a high price, and does not sell them.

The uploader suggested that, since the rent of the apartments is quite high (lowest rent prices for a one bedroom apartment start at 7950 yuan/month, which is $1250, highest are priced at 11350 yuan/month, which is $1781), the tenants would not accept an alleged ‘subletting’ agreement.

The uploader said that they were notified by the Zhangjiang Group that four of the buildings in their complex would be used as quarantine sites on March 15 of this year.

Because the four buildings were vacant and far removed from the buildings with the most residents, the decisions were not objected by tenants.

Not long after, the entire community went into lockdown mode starting on March 18. Until the incident of April 14, the residents had been inside their homes for 27 days while cooperating with mass testing campaigns and managing to test negative for Covid-19 throughout.

On April 11, the residents were informed that an additional building, building 6, would also be used as a quarantine location.

This decision made residents living in building number 7 and 11 more nervous, since they were in close proximity of building number 6 – less than 20 meters away. The close proximity of the quarantine building and the quick spread of Omicron made residents fear that they could easily also be infected.

The Zhihu author then explains that on April 12, the community was informed that an additional eight buildings would also be used as quarantine locations, namely 7, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 18, 19. Of these buildings, 7, 11, and 14 were all occupied and for the residents at 14 all of their furniture and electrical appliances is self-bought and was not provided to them. The residents were expected to move out.

The residents complained that it was not easy to move their entire household in times of epidemic, and the building number 14 residents also worried about their furniture and appliances being used by Covid19 patients. They were therefore also offered compensation for relocating.

But, as explained in the lengthy Zhihu post, not all of the residents received their compensation and it was unclear when and if they would. Residents also demanded to see official proof that the government was really demanding that their apartment buildings were to be made into quarantine sites. A meeting between Zhangjiang Group and the residents took place and was also recorded, but did not lead to a solution.

A second negotiation between residents and the real estate group on April 13 also did not settle the matter, and the residents of building 7, 11, and 14 were required to move out immediately unless they wanted to live together with Covid-19 patients.

But a new problem also emerged, as the residents would allegedly be relocated to building number 15, which is surrounded on all sides by the buildings used as quarantine locations – at distance less than 20 meters away. The anxiety over becoming infected, the stress over the community being taken over, and the doubts over whether or not the decision was actually legal or not eventually led to the altercations of April 14.

The protests themselves did not turn out to be fruitful for the residents. It was a moment to document what was happening to them and to express their sadness and anger. Now, the author says, the residents are sharing their community with the Covid-19 patients and the residents are still not sure whether or not the entire ordeal is legal or not.

The social media user also warns others not to spread rumors and not to mix up other videos with what happened on April 14.

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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©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

Weibo Discussions: What is the Way Forward for China’s Zero-Covid Policy?

Political commentator Hu Xijin about China’s zero-Covid Policy: ” This fight is bound to be like navigating a boat against the current.”

Manya Koetse

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Over the past few weeks, while various regions across China have been dealing with a surge in new Covid cases and ongoing local lockdowns, there have been more online discussions regarding the future of China’s zero-Covid policy.

Facing another local outbreak and lockdown, people in Shenzhen’s Shawei in the city’s Futian District clashed with local officers on September 26. People were chanting: “Lift the Covid lockdown!”

The well-known Chinese political commentator Hu Xijin (@胡锡进), former editor-in-chief of state tabloid Global Times, published a lengthy post on his Weibo account on Monday, focusing on the current discussions surrounding China’s Covid policies.

Hu Xijin

In his post, Hu explained the perspectives of people on both sides of the Covid debate, and why many people want China to ‘open up’ while there are also those who are still defending China’s prevention and control measures to contain the virus.

Hu also argued that more experts should come forward with suggestions and views based on science in order for the online discourse to focus more on science and rationality rather than letting the discussions be dominated by loud voices on social media.

 

This is a (loose) translation of the full text in Hu Xijin’s post (translation by What’s on Weibo):

 

“The epidemic has had an influence on all Chinese people, and it has affected the face of China’s current economic and social operations in all areas. Recently, however, there have been fewer reasonable discussions on epidemic prevention policies. Many experts have gone silent while the slogans thrown around on the internet are increasing, and they’re all opposing each other. This public opinion environment is evidently not constructive regarding China’s next steps in the fight against the epidemic, and it certainly doesn’t help to create a realistic response to the continuous changes in the epidemic.”

“I’m not an epidemic expert, but I hope to contribute by promoting rational discussions on epidemic prevention. Let me first go through the two main types of views right now of those calling for “liberalization” and those opposing it.”

“The view of the “liberalization” group: it has been proven that Omikron and its variants simply cannot be contained, and there is overwhelming evidence that these variants already have a lower mortality rate than influenza. Lockdowns in various areas, especially the long ones, severely restrict people’s freedom and are detrimental to physical and mental health. The constant “static management”* (静态管理) everywhere has severely impacted the economy and had led to business closures, unemployment, and depression. Long-term lockdowns and control have also led to China being more shut-off and isolated from the rest of the world. In short, they argue that China holding on to a policy of prevention and control along with the rest of the world is a choice that China should and must make.” [*a type of ‘lockdown’ that still allows some essential businesses and public services to stay open.]

“The view of opponents of “liberalization”: they argue that it is a fact that the epidemic is not over, and that there is no certainty that the virus will continue to weaken – there is still a possibility that the virus will become stronger again. The countries that “let go” [of Covid measures] were forced to do so. But if China opens up, all previous efforts might go to waste and we could face an immense wave of hundreds of thousands of deaths; it would create a serious strain on our healthcare and cause a humanitarian disaster. Although China is currently facing short-term difficulties, the past three years of the epidemic have shown that overall the economic costs of China’s epidemic prevention have been relatively low. We must persevere now, and when the time is ripe we won’t be too late to “liberalize” and, considering everything, another six months or so won’t really matter. It is also not necessarily true that the economy will jump back up once we open up. So many countries across the world have opened up but there are few where the economy is actually doing well. When there are viruses everywhere, there will be a lot of households with elderly people and young children that will stay away from public places. In most areas in China, on the other hand, they are going out without any worries, which supports consumption. They say that China is harming itself by isolating from the world, [but] China’s foreign trade has actually increased since the pandemic and not decreased. A part of foreign trade is experiencing temporary and specific challenges but that does not apply to the overall situation and the reality is that the world’s demand for China is growing.”

“It is worth noting that most of those opposing China ‘opening up’ generally also oppose the arbitrary implementation of “static management” and excessive epidemic prevention, arguing that the ‘one-size-fits-all’ kind of epidemic prevention is a manifestation of local officials in epidemic areas trying to protect official bureaucracy. “

“Overall, there is a political atmosphere surrounding the online discussions on epidemic prevention, and the viewpoints of the people whose voices are the loudest are highlighted. I think this is a bad trend, and we should stop it. I believe that experts should come forward more and publish their suggestions to bring the epidemic discussion back to the realm of science and reason. Even if we can’t completely do it, we should strive to do so.”

 

“Countries across the world have collectively lost the battle and have accepted the natural consequences of the Covid pandemic, including deaths and Long Covid. Only China is still fighting.”

 

“In order to advocate [China’s] “liberalization,” we must find reliable answers to some crucial questions. The death rate of Omicron is low, but the infection rate is high, so the overall death total is still not radically reduced – even in America every day a few hundred people are still dying because of it, – how can we solve this problem? When fever and severe cough is all around us, even if it’s not deadly, entire families might fear for the lives of the elderly and their children once they find themselves in such a situation, and everyone will rush to the hospital. How do we prevent our medical systems from becoming overwhelmed? And what’s actually going on regarding Long Covid? The UK has two million cases of Long Covid and the US has around four million cases, it is affecting the quality of life for many people, how do we see this problem? And in case we “open up,” how would it affect the number of people still coming to shopping malls, subway stations, restaurants, and cinemas? China is not like American and European societies, the public’s mental state is relatively fragile. We need experts to come up with credible predictions and measures that can be taken.”

“Those who oppose the easing of preventive and control measures should respond to these kinds of questions: how would we solve the constant ‘static management’ [lockdows] in some regions? How do we address the problems of the travel flow between regions not being smooth and the disruption of supply chains in production areas? Would it be possible for us to achieve, over time, a mature upgrade of the prevention and control system while avoiding widespread lockdowns and obstruction of domestic travel?”

“Omicron is a big problem for humanity, and the reality is that countries across the world have collectively lost the battle and have accepted the natural consequences of the Covid pandemic, including deaths and Long Covid. Only China is still fighting. But this fight is bound to be like navigating a boat against the current. We need to let the whole society grasp the difficulty of this battle, make them understand how hard it is for the country to make “and/and” [both economy and public health-related] strategic decisions to safeguard the interests of 1.4 billion people. There will not be an easy way to solve all the issues and eliminate all systematic problems. China can only constantly weigh in the pros and cons to find the way with the least relative disadvantages. I believe that if we talk things through, although there will always be complaints in the public opinion arena, everyone or at least the majority of people will eventually understand the good intentions and necessity of the country’s strategic decisions, and our society as a collective will continue to keep up with the state policies ahead.”

The post, which received over 55,000 likes, also got many responses.

One popular comment said: “I don’t oppose the epidemic prevention, I oppose how ‘one solution fits all’! As quickly as possible we should push for [local] Health Code apps to recognize each other and stop with making people isolate and stay home in low-risk areas.”

Some people appreciated Hu’s post and were glad that it explicitly stated some issues that are usually not mentioned in official discourse on China’s Covid battle. “Finally someone is admitting that the virus won’t go away,” one commenter said.

But there were also people who thought Hu Xijin was missing some points. One person responded: “The grievances of the people are so deep, yet no official has spoken out, do they think the voices of the people are not important at all?” Another person mentioned: “It’s not that the experts are silent; they are afraid to speak up.” Some asked: “Who has made them go silent?”

 

“Is our epidemic prevention really still about preventing the epidemic?”

 

Another Weibo user mentioned that it is not about control versus freedom in China’s Covid fight, but about excessive measures – not too long ago, news that authorities in Xiamen were also doing Covid tests on fish and crabs made its rounds on Weibo: “Isn’t excessive prevention the biggest waste of energy? They’ve opened up in foreign countries for so long, aren’t they the best example? Don’t you want to believe the people? Why are we still worried about Chinese people having a frail mental state? Let’s hurry up and stop this laughable excessive epidemic prevention, we’re all tired.”

“Is our epidemic prevention really still about preventing the epidemic?” others wondered.

There were many people who agreed with this, and one of the top comments said: “I don’t support opening up completely, but I oppose excessive epidemic control, and this is a view that is held by most Chinese.”

Online discussions on the future of China’s Covid policies first started flaring up during the Shanghai lockdown in April of this year, when people started posing questions on why people who barely show any Covid symptoms should still be quarantined at centralized quarantine locations, fearing cross-infection or re-infection due to the crowded and sometimes chaotic living conditions.

At the time, more Chinese officials and experts started emphasizing the importance of sticking to the “dynamic zero-COVID strategy” as the best way forward for China, meaning 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.

In order to “amplify authoritative voices” to weigh in on this kind of discussions, Weibo launched its Hongru Open Media Plan (#鸿儒-媒体开放计划#) earlier in 2022, using it as a platform to highlight ‘expert’ opinions.

China’s leading experts on Covid-19, including the renowned scientists Zhong Nanshan (钟南山), Zhang Wenhong (张文宏), and Li Lanjuan (李兰娟), have published and spoken up about the virus and the epidemic situation in China throughout the years.

In a recent interview, Chinese epidemiologist Li Lanjuan said that Covid-19 is a ‘Type B’ infectious disease that is currently managed as a ‘Type A’ infectious disease in China. Type A includes the plague and cholera, while infectious diseases classified as Type B are less severe and include bird flu, malaria, polio, and AIDS.

Li suggested that the management of Covid-19 would, in time, also shift to a ‘Type B’ management system and that Covid-19 will have less of an impact on people’s lives. A Weibo hashtag related to the topic was later taken offline.

Not long after, a hashtag titled ‘How Long Will ‘Dynamic Zero’ Go On?’ (#动态清零政策将持续多久#) was published on Weibo by China Youth Daily, referring to a press conference on September 7 where this question was asked by a foreign reporter. Although Chang Jile (常继乐), deputy director of the National Bureau of Disease Control and Prevention, did not give a concrete answer to the question, he emphasized that scientific research on Covid-19 is still ongoing and that China’s prevention and control measures are still “the most economical and the most effective.”

In the Weibo comment sections, one person wrote: “Still no answers. How long will this go on?”

Read more about Covid in China here.
Read more about Hu Xijin here.

By Manya Koetse 

Elements in the featured image by Fusion Medical Animation.

 

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China and Covid19

Residents in Locked Down Lhasa Say Local Epidemic Situation is a “Giant Mess”

Manya Koetse

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They’ve been in lockdown for 42 days already, but according to some Lhasa-based bloggers, there have been no improvements in the local epidemic situation. They say there is a stark difference between what officials are reporting and the daily reality they are dealing with in Tibet.

“The epidemic situation is bad in Lhasa, please pay attention,” one netizen wrote on Weibo on September 15, pointing to many new posts surfacing on Chinese social media about the difficulties people are facing in Lhasa city in Tibet.

Over the past week, many Tibet-based bloggers have posted on social media about the local circumstances, and hundreds of Chinese social media posts talk about similar problems in the region. Despite the ongoing lockdown, they say, there are still a growing number of positive cases within Lhasa communities; buses are allegedly going back and forth to bring people to quarantine sites where those testing positive and negative are mixed; they claim that there is an absolute lack of management and control; and many locals suggest that the official reports do not reflect the actual number of Covid cases at all.

According to the official numbers, Tibet saw its peak in Covid cases on August 17 and has since reported fewer new cases, reporting a total of 118 new cases on Thursday.

“I am a bit shocked!” one local social media user wrote: “What I saw was a total of 28 buses lined up outside Lhasa Nagqu No. 2 Senior High School, and then still more [buses] were coming. One bus can fit around 50 people, so there must have been around 1400 positive cases. There was a blind man, there were elderly people in wheelchairs, there were swaddled-up babies, from getting on the bus at 9.30 pm up to now, we’ve been waiting for 5 hours and we’re still waiting now. It’s just pure chaos at the school entrance, there is no order. I won’t sleep tonight.”

On the 14th of September, another netizen wrote:

“In order to welcome central government leaders to Lhasa and to demonstrate the “excellent” epidemic prevention capabilities of the local government & the “outstanding” results of the fight against the epidemic to them, they moved citizens to the rural areas and let them all stay crowded together in unfinished concrete buildings, with all kinds of viruses having free reign.”

On a Lhasa community message board, one Weibo user wrote: “Lhasa has already been in lockdown for over a month, yet our little community has so many infected people that I’m wondering how effective a lockdown actually is? Has Tibet been forgotten? When other places in China have a few positive cases it becomes a hot topic. But what about Tibet? And what about Lhasa?”

Another anonymous poster writes: “Regarding the Lhasa epidemic situation, the numbers were already a bit fake before, but I can understand it was also to take the public sentiment into consideration. I personally don’t care how you report the data, as long as the epidemic prevention and control work is properly managed, then the lockdown can be lifted soon and nobody will say anything about it. But a month has passed already, and in a town with some hundred thousands of people, the epidemic work is increasingly getting worse. Many people around me have never even left the house and inexplicably turned out to test positive. Meanwhile those who tested positive are quarantined together with people who still tested negative, it’s a giant mess.”

 

“Lhasa hasn’t had a Covid outbreak for the past three years, the city doesn’t have enough experience in controlling the epidemic.”

 

“It’s the 42nd day of lockdown,” another person wrote on Friday: “People are lining up to go to centralized isolation, Lhasa has been in lockdown longer than Chengdu, but it doesn’t make it to the hot topic lists. People who tested negative again and again suddenly turn out to be positive. Lhasa hasn’t had a Covid outbreak for the past three years, the city doesn’t have enough experience in controlling the epidemic. It’s going to be hard to restore tourism here before the end of the year. Before, big crowds would come to visit.

Over the past few days, following a heightened focus on the situation in Xinjiang, there has also been more attention for the epidemic situation in Tibet.

“Please pay more attention to the topic of the Lhasa epidemic,” one person wrote, repeating a similar message sent out by many others: “Lhasa doesn’t need your prayers, we need exposure.”

On Friday, one popular gamer with more than a million followers wrote on Weibo:

“Many have been reaching out to me via private messages, saying that the epidemic situation in Tibet’s Lhasa is very serious. If it’s really like this, I hope matters can be settled as soon as possible. I don’t know if this post can stay up or not, but I want to try my best to speak up and generate more attention to this epidemic trend. I experienced two months of lockdown in Shanghai myself and understand what it feels like. I have faith in our nation, and I believe the country will definitely take action. Everyone in Tibet, jiayou [come on].”

Many of the comments and posts coming from Lhasa are similar to those we saw last week, coming from Yining in Xinjiang. Social media users based in these places complain that many of their posts have been deleted and that it is very difficult for local residents to make their voices heard.

This is different from the previous lockdown situations in, for example, Xi’an, Shanghai, or Chengdu, where people posted videos, photos, and shared their lockdown experiences, either from home, from the Covid testing lines, or from the makeshift hospitals.

On the one hand, the reason why people in places such as Lhasa or Yining have more difficulties in making their stories heard in China’s hectic social media environment relates to the fact that these places have a relatively small population size – while Yining and Lhasa have approximately 542,00 and 465,000 inhabitants respectively, there are 21 million people in Chengdu and some 26 million in Shanghai.

But a bigger barrier to posting about their circumstances is formed by the social media censorship that is extra strict when it comes to Xinjiang and Tibet as these places are considered sensitive political subjects, which is why topics related to these regions see far more aggressive online censorship – even for seemingly innocuous posts.

One Weibo user with over 600,000 followers wrote: “In such a sensitive place as Tibet, I really needn’t worry about whether they’re gonna see my post or not. I posted to vent my anger and scolded the leadership for a bit and within 24 hours the police came to my hotel and asked me to delete my posts. Now that everyone is asking for help like this, they will definitely see it, but they are determined to do this and do so on purpose, it’s clear they don’t care about people’s lives.”

Meanwhile, Chinese official media reporting on the epidemic situation in Tibet stress the collective effort to fight the virus in Lhasa. On September 15, People’s Daily reported how 18 sister provinces and cities across China sent their best teams to Tibet to help with local anti-epidemic work and to bring supplies.

The Tibet-based military blogger ZhufengZhengrong (@珠峰峥嵘) writes: “It’s been over a month and my comrade-in-arms are still fighting on the front line (..). I just hope the epidemic will end soon, and that I will be able to meet my family and hold my children and weep.”

By Manya Koetse 

 

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