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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.

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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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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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