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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



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, 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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Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of 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 Contact at, or follow on Twitter.

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China and Covid19

The “Final Round Players” of China’s Covid Outbreak

Those who still haven’t had Covid have made it to the “finals,” but it’s not always easy to stay positive about still testing negative.

Manya Koetse



This Chinese Lunar New Year period, as millions of people are traveling across the country, Hangzhou Daily (杭州日报) posted a video on Weibo of a 13-year-old boy dressed in full protective clothing at the Hangzhou train station.

The young man told the reporter that he was on his way to visit his grandparents for the Chinese New Year. When asked why he was dressed in protective clothing from head to toe, he answered: “Because I haven’t had Covid yet.”

According to the video posted by Hangzhou Daily, the boy has made it to the “Final Rounds” (决赛圈) as he has managed to stay Covid-negative at a time when so many people have already been infected with Covid-19 (#挺进决赛圈的男孩穿防护服坐火车#).

Since China ‘optimized’ the last stringent measures of its ‘Zero Covid’ policy back in early December – including an end to mandatory mass testing, – a wave of Covid infections spread across the country. The number of infections and emergency department visits reportedly reached its peak in late December of 2022 and in early January of 2023.

According to Wu Zunyou (@吴尊友ChinaCDC), chief epidemiologist of the Chinese Center of Disease Control and Prevention, 80 percent of China’s population has now been infected with Covid (“这一波疫情已经使得全国约80%的人感染过”).

As it is getting rarer to come across someone who has not had Covid yet, travelers dressed in full hazmat suits and protective gear are bound to stand out. “So many people on the train, and there are still two people in the crowd wearing protective clothing,” one Weibo user from Guangdong wrote. Others also post photos on social media of some of the few travelers still fully dressed in protective gear.

One blogger photographed a child wearing protective clothing at Chongqing West Station on Jan. 24, calling the protective attire “exaggerated,” and wondering how the child was supposed to go to the toilet.

Photo posted on Weibo by @杨品-光线摄影学院 on Jan 24., 2023.

Traveler wearing protective clothing at Hangzhou East Station, photo by @百鸣老屈.

Hangzhou Daily is not the only media outlet dubbing those who managed to stay negative “final round players” (决赛圈选手). In early January, Beijing Daily (北京日报​​​​) and People’s Daily (人民日报) also published a short article using the same phrase. In the article, the Beijing expert physician Dr. Li Dong (李侗) answered some questions about the so-called ‘finalists.’

According to Dr. Li Dong, some of the people who claim to have managed to stay ‘Covid free’ were never infected due to protective measures. But there are also those who may have actually had Covid-19 without realizing it, as they barely had any symptoms or were completely asymptomatic.

“Final round players, protect yourself!” one Weibo commenter writes: “Who else has managed to reach these finals?”

“As a ‘final player,’ I finally went out to eat and visit the shopping mall today. I’ll have to wait and see if I reach the championship level. If I haven’t caught [Covid], I can go on and lead a normal life; if I did catch it, I’ll need to wait a while, and will also be able to lead a normal life.”

Other persons who did not have Covid yet also share on social media that they went out for the first time during this Spring Festival period: “I cautiously went out and saw my first movie in 2023, Wandering Earth II, I picked a morning screening so that the cinema is not so crowded yet.”

Now that the Covid infections in China have peaked and the number of infected critically ill patients is quickly dropping, the fears over catching Covid are also seemingly fading among those who were not yet infected.

But some people who have not had Covid yet are still being careful, especially if it concerns elderly family members. It’s not always easy to stay positive about still testing negative – also for loved ones who did previously have Covid and want to protect their family.

One Fujian-based social media user writes: “I recovered from Covid and I’m spending the Spring Festival with three ‘final round players.’ We’ve been stuck inside the house for days. I’ve been looking at the lanterns and the lights in the neighborhood, watching them from the balcony, and I really wanted to go down and see.”

“Looking at WeChat Moments, all my friends are out traveling, but my family still hasn’t had Covid and we’re afraid to go out,” another netizen writes: “It’s sad to celebrate the New Year without going out. Guess we’re final-round players now, let’s hope it brings good things.”

Meanwhile, the group of ‘finalists’ is still shrinking. One Weibo user from Guangxi wrote: “I’ve left the finalist circle. It’s only been two days since I returned to my hometown and I’m already infected.”

By Manya Koetse 

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China and Covid19

Video Shows Real-Time “Departure” Information Board at Chinese Crematorium

From “cremation in process” to “cooling down,” the digital display shows the progress of the cremation to provide information to those waiting in the lobby. The crematorium ‘departure’ board strikes a chord with many.

Manya Koetse



A video showing a live display screen announcing the names and status of the deceased at a Yunnan crematorium has been making its rounds on Chinese social media, from WeChat to Weibo, where one version of the video received over 1,7 million views.

Somewhat similar to a real-time platform departure display on train stations, the screen shows the waiting number of the deceased person, their name, gender, the name of the lounge/room (if any) for families, the name of the crematorium chamber, and the status of the cremation process. Below in the screen, it says “the final journey of a warm life” (温暖人生的最后旅程).

For example, the screen displays the names of a Mr. Chen and a Mr. Li; their bodies were in the process of being cremated (火化中), while other cremations were marked as “completed” (完成) or “cooling down” (降温中).

Through such a screen, located in the crematorium lobby, family members and loved ones can learn about the progress of the cremation of the deceased.

The video, recorded by a local on Jan. 7, received many comments. Among them, some people commented on the information board itself, while others simply expressed grief over those who died and the fragility of life. Many felt the display was confronting and it made them emotional.

“It makes me really sad that this how people’s lives end,” one commenter said, with another person replying that the display also shows you still need to wait in line even when you’re dead.

“I didn’t expect the screens [in the crematorium] to be like those in hospitals, where patients are waiting for their turn,” another Weibo user wrote. “It would be better if the names were hidden, like in the hospitals, to protect the privacy of the deceased,” another person replied.

Others shared their own experiences at funeral parlors also using such information screens.

Another ‘departure display’ at a Chinese crematorium, image shared by Weibo user.

“My grandfather passed away last September, and when we were at the undertaker’s, the display was also jumping from one name to the other and we could only comfort ourselves knowing that he was among those who lived a relatively long life.”

“Such a screen, it really makes me sad,” another commenter from Guangxi wrote, with others writing: “It’s distressing technology.”

Although the information screen at the crematorium is a novelty for many commenters, the phenomenon itself is not necessarily related to the Covid outbreak and the number of Covid-related deaths; some people share how they have seen them in crematoriums before, and funeral parlor businesses have used them to provide information to families since at least 2018.

According to an article published by Sohu News, more people – especially younger ones – have visited a funeral home for the first time in their lives recently due to the current Covid wave, also making it the first time for them to come across such a digital display.

The online video of such an information board has made an impact at a time when crematoriums are crowded and families report waiting for days to bury or cremate their loved ones, with especially a large number of elderly people dying due to Covid.

On Jan. 4, one social media user from Liaoning wrote:

I really suggest that the experts go to the crematoriums to take a look. There is no place to put the deceased, they’re parked outside in temporary containers, there’s no time left to hold a farewell ceremony and you can only directly cremate, and for those who were able to have a ceremony, they need to finish within ten minutes (..) At the funeral parlor’s big screen, there were eight names on every page, and there were ten pages for all the people in line that day, I stood there for half an hour and didn’t see the name of the person I was waiting for pop up anymore.”

As the video of the display in the crematorium travels around the internet, many commenters suggest that it is not necessarily the real-time ‘departure’ board itself that bothers them, but how it shows the harsh reality of death by listing the names of the deceased and their cremation status behind it. Perhaps it is the contrast between the technology of the digital display boards and the reality of the human vulnerability that it represents that strikes a chord with people.

One blogger who reposted the video on Jan. 13 wrote: “Life is short, cherish the present, let’s cherish what we have and love yourself, love your family, and love this world.” Among dozens of replies, some indicate that the video makes them feel uncomfortable.

Another commenter also wrote:

I just saw a video that showed an electronic display at a crematorium, rolling out the names of the deceased and the stage of the cremation. One name represents the ending of a life. And it just hit me, and my tears started flowing. I’m afraid of parting, I’m afraid of loss, I just want the people I love and who love me to stay by my side forever. I don’t want to leave. I’m afraid I’ll be alone one day, and that nobody will ever make me feel warm again.”

One person captured why the information board perhaps causes such unease: “The final moments that people still spent on this earth take place on the electronic screen in the memorial hall of the funeral home. Then, they are gone without a sound.”


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By Manya Koetse 
with contributions by Zilan Qian

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.

©2023 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at

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