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China and Covid19

What’s Happening in Dandong? Tragic Trending Stories from the Border City

Frustrations mount in Dandong: “All of these things happening are not being followed up on. It’s just settled it by leaving it unsettled.”

Manya Koetse



The border city of Dandong has seen one of the strictest lockdowns in China. Despite eased restrictions, stories from distressed residents keep flooding social media.

The account of a young man from Dandong claiming to be an end-stage leukemia patient has attracted the attention of Chinese netizens this week. In a Tiktok video, the man stated his only wish is to be able to go home to die, but that he is being prevented from returning to his loved ones.

The man, who said he is dying soon, was on his way home to his parents after seeing a doctor in Beijing. Authorities and caregivers had allegedly been lying to him about taking him back to Liaoning province. Instead, they had been driving around Hebei province.

In various videos which have been circulating on Chinese social media since July 1st, the man can be seen struggling to breathe, blood stains showing through his face mask.

Because the videos are short and lack context, this unverified story has raised a lot of questions and concerns – especially because the original TikTok account no longer seems to be online. Hashtags used to discuss the story (such as #丹东白血病男孩#, #辽宁丹东一白血病男孩归家受阻#) were also taken offline on Monday, July 4th.

“Let him go home! He just want to die by his parents’ side!” some commenters said, with others writing: “Where is he now? Who is helping him?” “This feels like another world, not like China in the 21st century,” another Weibo user posted.

This online account of an allegedly terminally ill patient being unable to go back to Dandong, Liaoning province, strikes a chord with netizens at a time when people in the city have gone through a lot already.

Dandong, China’s biggest city bordering North Korea with a population of 2.3 million citizens, has seen one of the strictest lockdowns in the country.

Dandong has seen successive waves of Covid-19 since April of this year. Although there has been an easing of the strict rules on June 24 – those in risk-free regions can move around within the city as long as they have a negative test result within 48 hours -, residents are still facing many hurdles related to Covid restrictions in their everyday life.

Dandong sunset shared by Weibo user @洪水清波- on June 24.

In a recent report by state media outlet Global Times, the epidemic situation was still described as “grim and complex” since the city has not been able to identify the source of transmission of local Covid cases. Because the Covid outbreak in North Korea is seen as a possible source of infection, Dandong residents living near the border have previously even been advised to close their windows.

By June 14, when Dandong had been under lockdown for 50 days already, the city’s mayor Han Jianjun apologized for failures in the city’s response to the lockdown.

There have been various trending stories about residents clashing with community leadership and local authorities recently, and some reports about people allegedly committing suicide.

On June 21, a local woman and her father clashed with police after the daughter insisted on taking her dad to the hospital to pick up medicine and get a check-up despite her yellow health code (meaning movement is restricted due to possible heightened Covid infection risk). The incident went viral, made headlines, and the woman was later given ten days of administrative detention for refusing to cooperate and abide by the epidemic prevention regulations.

On July 2nd, netizens posted about an elderly lady jumping from the 13th floor of a building in the city’s Zhenxing district (振兴区).

A few days prior, on June 30, a 93-year-old resident living in the city’s Taonan community (桃南社区) was allegedly prevented from getting medicine at the hospital for his hernia pain because he did not have the right papers. The man, wanting to show community workers his condition, was accused of being indecent (‘a hooligan’), after which the old man was taken away by the police.

Feeling wronged and humiliated, the man hanged himself by the community gate the following day. That story also went trending on social media. Although some related hashtags were taken offline (#丹东桃南社区阻止93岁老人看病#, #丹东93岁老人受辱上吊#), the incident was later also reported by Chinese media and local authorities started an investigation into the case (#丹东回应93岁老人疑受辱后自杀#).

The community where the 93-year-old Dandong resident took his own life.

On July 3rd, a delivery driver who was unable to make enough money during the Covid outbreak allegedly also committed suicide by jumping from a bridge into the Ai River after he was no longer able to pay his rent.

There was also controversy over a box containing the Covid test samples of 186 residents of Dandong’s Taoyuan community (桃源社区) being left by the side of the road for an entire night and day on July 1st (#丹东186人核酸样本疑被搁置路边#).

Although not all of these stories come up in official media reports, and some are unverified at time of writing, they attract a lot of attention on Chinese social media, where Dandong recurringly is a hot – and censored – topic.

“Again, it’s [happening] in Dandong. Three months of stillstand, countless of contradictions are accumulating and it’s intensifying. You’re willing to give careful consideration to some people’s lives while blatantly disregarding the lives of others,” one commenter wrote.

“We are doing daily testing here in Dandong, and we do not know why (..), is it really necessary to do it every day? Why not just twice a week?”, one Weibo user from Dandong wrote on July 5th, with another person writing: “It will be the 8th day of continuous testing tomorrow.”

On Tuesday, the city reported one new (asymptomatic) Covid case. On Sunday, there were nine new Covid cases. The city reported the highest number of new local cases on April 25-26 of this year, when 102 new asymptomatic cases were reported within a day and 24 symptomatic cases.

“I want to ask God, will something good still happen in Dandong? Will I be able to return home in August? In October? Will I be able to go home to my family at all again this year?”, one Weibo user wrote.

The daily trending topics concerning Dandong recently are a sign of built-up frustrations. Many Dandong residents are expressing discontent, worry, and stress on Weibo about the strict Covid measures of the past few months.

On July 4th, a man in Dandong’s Maokuishan, Zhenxing District, could be seen frantically throwing objects from his 6th-floor window, damaging the cars parked underneath the building.

On July 3rd, the story one netizen shared about a family being forced to isolate, leaving behind their farm animals, also shocked social media users. In a home security video shared online, anti-epidemic workers can be seen dragging dead sheep away. Instead of feeding them, the sheep were apparently electrocuted and disposed of.

One thing that many people are venting about is the lack of official responses or follow-ups to the stories that have been circulating recently: “All of these things happening in Dandong are not being followed up on, [they] just settle it by leaving it unsettled, this is the way that the Dandong government and related departments are handling things,” one commenter wrote.

Looking at lockdown mismanagement, lack of access to medical care, and the heightening tensions between local community workers and residents, there seems to be some resemblance with the hopelessness and despair people expressed during the lockdown in Xi’an in early 2022 and the handling of the Covid outbreak in Shanghai in Spring.

After so many weeks of hardship, many people are longing for good news. “I just want life to return to normal,” some netizens write, with one person adding: “Just give us some hope.”

To read more about Covid-19 in China, check our articles here.

By Manya Koetse
With contributions by Miranda Barnes

For information and support on mental health and suicide, international helplines can be found at


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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

Chinese Commentator Hu Xijin Expects to “Get Covid Within a Month” (and Why It Matters)

This Hu Xijin commentary can be seen as part of a wider trend of normalizing Covid in the Chinese online media sphere.

Manya Koetse



Hu Xijin (胡锡进), the Beijing-based retired editor-in-chief of the state-run Global Times, recently published a post on the Chinese social media platform Weibo about him getting mentally ready to be infected with Covid-19 soon.

The former journalist Hu, whose posts and statements often go trending and influence public opinion, also made a few other noteworthy comments.

On Sunday (Dec 4), Hu posted: “Over the past week, China has essentially ended widespread lockdowns, with places like Beijing and others beginning to allow home quarantine for many positive individuals, while reducing the scope of nucleic acid testing. These are amazing changes.”

Four weeks ago, right before China introduced its twenty new Covid measures, Hu already argued that strict lockdowns are no longer sustainable and that China should aim for a more relaxed and local approach (which is exactly what happened).

Now, Hu Xijin says that he is “mentally preparing to be infected with Covid within the coming month” (“做好了在一个月之内被感染上的思想准备”), further writing:

In order for young people to have a colorful young era, in order to save the livelihood of so many service industry workers, in order for people from all walks of life to avoid seeing their wages cut, in order for so many companies to get out of their predicaments, this 62-year-old ‘Old Hu’ is willing to participate in the risk of getting [a virus that] degenerated to only 2.5 per 10,000 rate of getting seriously ill.”

Hu’s post was published on December 2nd in the context of Hu Says, a regular video column by Hu Xijin.

A few months ago, such a comment coming from such a big account would have been unthinkable.

In May of this year, those who tested positive still complained about suffering from stigmatization in society.

But Hu’s comments come at a time when there are more discussions about getting Covid and sharing the experiences of having Covid.

In the second week of November, shortly after Chinese authorities launched their updated Covid rules, the hashtag “What Is It Like to Catch Covid-19?” (#感染新冠是什么体验#) already went trending on Weibo, along with other hashtags informing Chinese netizens about what it’s like to get Covid – a virus that so many in China never experienced first hand.

Since Hu Xijin (1960) ended his career as the editor-in-chief of Global Times in 2021, his role as a political commentator has arguably become even more important and more visible on Weibo than before, especially in China’s challenging Covid times of 2021.

Some find him overly nationalistic, for others he is not nationalistic enough; there are those who find him reasonable, and then some say he is repetitive and just dancing to the tune of Party propaganda. But then there have also been some discussions – in light of Pelosi’s controversial Taiwan visit – about Hu misleading public opinion by not matching the official stance.

Whichever it is, some things are certain: Hu has some 25 million followers on Weibo, and he is often the first major media account that is allowed to discuss in detail some major sensitive social topics, even if these online discussions are otherwise being tightly controlled (think of the Tangshan BBQ Restaurant incident, the future of zero Covid, the Urumqi fire, and the 11.24 protests across China.)

Hu’s comments about ‘catching Covid soon’ can be seen as part of a wider trend of normalizing Covid in the Chinese online media sphere, preparing people to face a virus they are still unfamiliar with since ‘zero Covid’ has always been the main goal.

On December 3, Hu further clarified his comments about preparing to getting Covid. He explained he expects to catch the virus because he is active in the media environment, through which he unavoidably is in touch with many different people. He also promised that if he might get infected, he would share his Covid experience with all of his readers.

As the idea of catching Covid is becoming more normalized (there are more and more trending hashtags informing what to expect after getting Covid, e.g. #新冠发病7天内身体会发生什么变化#), people are also exchanging non-scientifical advice on how to prevent catching Covid, such as drinking licorice ginger soup, holding Sichuan peppercorns inside your mouth when going out, or getting silicon covers for the drains in the bathroom to prevent the virus coming through via neighboring apartments.

Some express their worries about catching the virus. “I’m really scared. I’ve already replaced all of my masks with K95 ones,” one Weibo user wrote: “My immune system has been weak since I was little, and I have allergies. I have the feeling that if I get infected I might lose half my life, if I don’t die (..) I’m in a state of panic.”

Even though China is still far from ‘opening up’, some people are already preparing to ‘live together with the virus,’ reminding others that getting vaccinated, keeping social distance, and washing hands are all measures that will help in preventing getting Covid.

“I am worried about getting Covid but I also want to open up,” some on Weibo said.

“As much as I wanted it all to end, this feels abrupt,” one social media user from Inner Mongolia wrote: “It won’t be the same as before. The thorough ‘zero Covid’ [policy] has gone. The country’s protection of our health has gone up to this point. I hope everyone can now take care in prevention themselves, and protect themselves and their families. I hope the epidemic situation will end soon, that the world will be ok, and that we can have our freedom.”

Meanwhile, Hu Xijin informed netizens on Saturday that he had some milk, boiled eggs, pastry and pickled mustard greens for breakfast. While working on his condition and nutrition, he says that if his Covid positive time comes, he will not get any VIP treatment. If allowed, he’ll either recover from home or go to a centralized Covid location.

He will just have to wait and see what happens, just as millions of other Chinese citizens are waiting to see what this winter is going to bring.

By Manya Koetse , with contributions by Miranda Barnes

The featured images are all images that went viral recently in light of China opening up (including nucleic acid testing booths being taken away).


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China and Covid19

Announced Changes in Nucleic Acid Testing and Further Easing of Covid Measures Across China

Bus and subway operators in Beijing will no longer refuse entry to passengers without a 48-hour negative nucleic acid certificate.

Manya Koetse



On Monday, directly after that noteworthy unrest-filled weekend, the hashtag “Multiple Locations Announce Nucleic Acid Testing Changes” (#多地核酸检测通知发生变化#) went trending on Chinese social media, receiving over 660 million clicks by Monday evening.

Immediately following demonstrations in Beijing and a second night of protests in Shanghai and elsewhere, various Chinese media reported how different areas across the country are introducing changes to their current Covid19 testing measures.

On Wednesday, November 30, China’s vice-premier Sun Chunlan made remarks at a meeting on epidemic prevention, underlining the importance of “constantly optimizing” China’s Covid-19 response and talking about a “new stage and mission” – without ever mentioning “zero Covid.”

This is what we know about easing Covid measures thus far:

▶ Strict lockdowns have been lifted in Guangzhou, Zhengzhou, and Chongqing.

▶ On November 28, Guangzhou announced that people who do not actively participate in social life will no longer need to participate in continuous nucleic acid screening. This includes elderly people who stay indoors for long periods of time, students who take online classes, and those who work from home. The change will apply to residents in seven districts, including Haizhu, Panyu, Tianhe, and Baiyun (#广州7区无社会面活动者可不参加全员核酸#).

▶ Guangzhou, according to Reuters, also scrapped a rule that only people with a negative COVID test can buy fever medication over the counter.

Harbin will follow the example of Guangzhou, and will also allow people who are mostly based at home to skip nucleic acid test screenings.

▶ Same goes for Shenyang, and Taiyuan.

▶ In Chongqing, various districts have done widespread Covid testing campaigns, but the local authorities announced that those communities that have not had a positive Covid case over the past five days do not need to participate in nucleic acid screening anymore. This means an end to district-wide testing.

▶ On November 30, Beijing also announced that it will start exempting some people from frequent Covid testing, including those elderly residents who are bound to home and other people who do not go out and have social interactions. This also includes younger students who are following classes online.

▶ Starting from December 5, bus and subway operators in Beijing will no longer refuse entry to passengers without a 48-hour negative nucleic acid certificate (announced on December 2nd).

▶ Although not officially announced, there have been various social media posts and reports about Covid-positive people in Beijing being allowed to quarantine at home if they meet conditions.

Chengdu Metro announced on December 2nd that it will no longer check passengers’ nucleic acid test reports. Passengers still need to scan their travel code and those with a green code can enter. Other public places will reportedly also start to accept the ‘green code’ only without a time limit on nucleic acid testing.

Tianjin metro announced that the 72-hour nucleic acid certificate check will be also be canceled for passengers on the Tianjin metro lines. As in other places, people will still need to wear proper face masks and undergo temperature checks.

▶ In Hangzhou, except for at special places such as nursing homes, orphanages, primary and secondary schools, people’s nucleic acid tests will no longer be checked in public transportation and other public places. They will also stop checking people’s Venue Codes (场所码).

By Manya Koetse , with contributions by Miranda Barnes


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