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China and Covid19

“Xi’an, What Are You Doing?!” – Lockdown Mismanagement Leaves Residents Angry and Scared

Quarantined Xi’an: “This outbreak is really putting the city’s management to the test.”

Manya Koetse

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On the 11th day of strict lockdown in the city of Xi’an, many residents are struggling with food shortages and meeting basic needs. Others are emphasizing the rays of light in dark times.

For many living in the city of Xi’an, the New Year did not start off bright and joyful, but dark and filled with anxiousness.

On December 22, more than 13 million residents were ordered to stay at home and a strict lockdown began after the city saw a new wave of Covid19 infections, recording 143 infections in the two weeks before since December 9th.

December 28 marked a record high of 175 new confirmed cases in a single day. By December 29th, the number of recorded infections reached 1,117, going up to 1,444 on January 1st and 1,573 on January 2nd.

As the city entered its tenth day under strict lockdown this weekend, Weibo saw an outpouring of anger and disbelief from sleepless netizens who expressed their shock over the way in which local authorities were managing the Covid19 outbreak and the lockdown itself.

With most offline and takeout stores being closed and residents not allowed the leave their compounds, getting food supplies and other essentials became a serious problem for many.

Residents were initially allowed to have one person in their household go out to buy groceries, but rules were later tightened, not allowing residents to leave at all except for Covid19 testing.

Although many households soon received government supplies, there were also communities where no food had been delivered yet and where online groceries were delayed. Some on Weibo complained that they had already been eating instant noodles for eight days straight, unable to get any vegetables.

These were some of the hashtags and taglines on Weibo surrounding incidents sparking outrage.

 

Food Shortages in Xi’an #西安买菜难#

The hashtag “Difficult to Buy Food in Xi’an” (#西安买菜难#) had received over 370 million clicks by Sunday, January 2nd.

Many people are sharing their stories of saving up what they have left at home, not eating vegetables or fruit for over a week, and expressing their fear of going hungry and not having enough formula to feed their babies. Some also write about not being able to get much-needed medicine for family members with medical conditions such as cancer or diabetes.

“I’m a student who is stranded in Xi’an,” one young woman wrote: “I’m lucky that I rented a room for a month so I have a place to stay, but I’m worried about whether or not there is enough food to eat! In this phase of developing the New Era of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics, there are still people who are worried about not being able to eat.” She later adds: “I just have two packs of noodles left, preparing to delay eating them as long as I can and will only eat them when I am most hungry.”

Other people also expressed concerns over not being able to get other essentials, such as sanitary napkins and diapers: “Where can I buy diapers for my baby? I can’t get them offline, I can’t get them online, but this is also a basic necessity!”

While people are crying out for help over not being able to get food, there are also many videos on Weibo showing how local anti-epidemic workers are distributing food throughout the city.

Hundreds of netizens posted photos of the vegetable boxes they received from the government, expressing gratitude over the food and the volunteers who brought it to them. While some are creative in making dolls from their received vegetables, others are making drawings of the vegetables they wish they had.

“I feel like I’m living in a parallel universe if I see the residents of Xi’an in the news,” one local Weibo user writes on January 2nd: “In Baqiao District (灞桥区) of Xi’an, the fact is that from the lockdown up to now, our neighborhood hasn’t seen a single grain of rice or vegetable from the government.”

People living in Shajing town (沙井村) also sent out messages online to share their struggles. One person posted a video showing a long line of people queuing up for steamed buns.

“The landlord here in Shajing town received two cabbages, two carrots, and two potatoes, but the tenants didn’t get anything,” one Weibo user from the area wrote.

 

Man Gets Beaten Up for Buying Steamed Buns #西安小伙买馒头被群殴#

A video showing how one Xi’an resident got beaten up by two community guards upon return to his compound after buying food went viral on social media this week.

The hashtag “Xi’an Guy Gets Beaten Up Buying Mantou [Steamed Buns]” (#西安小伙买馒头被群殴#) received over 230 million views on Weibo. Other hashtags related to the incident received 330 million and 90 million views respectively (#西安通报2名防疫人员殴打市民#, #警方通报西安2名防疫人员殴打市民#)

The incident happened on December 31st around noon in the Yanta District of Xi’an. Social media users who posted a video of the incident said the man had left the compound to buy some buns because he was hungry.

The man can be seen standing at the gates of the compound talking to the guards when one of them approaches him from behind and seemingly grabs his phone. Another guard then physically attacks the man, with two other community workers also joining in punching the man, his food getting scattered on the floor.

It was later reported that the guards apologized for their actions. Local police also sent out a statement that, in accordance with the law, the two guards who punched the man will be detained for seven days and were each given a 200 yuan fine.

The video angered many people for various reasons, with some also understanding why social tensions are rising in local communities where people are unsure of when they’ll get food while the guards are also put in a tough job during such a strict lockdown.

 

Sudden Quarantine of Mingde Bayingli Community #西安明德八英里小区#

Another hashtag attracting major attention on Chinese social media was one concerning the Mingde 8 Yingli community (明德八英里小区) in Yanta District, where dozens of residents received news that they would be quarantined away from their compound together in the night of January 1st due to new infections in their proximity.

Residents complained on Weibo and WeChat that they were unsure of where they were heading, that they were put in buses together for hours until being driven off to a remote guest house without proper supplies. Old people, small children, and pregnant women were among those being taken away for quarantine without allegedly being provided with the things they needed, and without any measures to protect them against the dangers of infection.

Others wondered what the point of the isolation was. After all, these residents were already staying inside their homes since the 20th of December, besides going out for Covid19 tests. What was the point of taking them away together?

Many commenters were moved to tears when they saw an image of an old man standing in line for the quarantine. The man, holding a walking stick, was seemingly all alone and did not seem to have luggage or food supplies with him. People worried about his wellbeing.

One WeChat article titled “Xi’an, Is This How You Control the Virus?” (“西安,这就是你的防疫管控?”) criticized the way in which the situation was handled, but it was soon taken offline.

Still, many others on Weibo also wrote things such as: “Xi’an, what are you doing?”, expressing disbelief that the city seemingly was not prepared for a lockdown like this even though it has been two years since the pandemic started.

On January 2nd, Chinese media reported that two local Xi’an officials, Wang Bin (王斌) and Cui Shiyue (崔诗越), were removed from their positions in order to “strengthen the epidemic prevention and control efforts.”

“It’s begun now,” some commenters posted, suggesting that local authorities are turning things around to improve the situation in the city’s districts.

There are also many netizens praising the efforts of anti-epidemic staff who are working around the clock to get food to the various communities.

One viral video showed a woman breaking down in tears as she told a local health worker that she was on her period, but that there was no way for her to get sanitary pads.

“They also can’t help it,” one person responded: “This outbreak is really putting the city’s management to the test.”

“I started my first day as a volunteer today,” one Weibo user wrote: “It was very tiring, but it is cool that I am doing what I want to do. I know things are not perfect. But we’re trying.”

One volunteer health worker from a local art troupe played the patriotic “My People, My Country” (我和我的祖国) on New Year’s Eve while residents were cheering from their windows. On Weibo, the same sentiment was shared by many: “Come on Xi’an! A big thank you to all the frontline workers in the fight against the epidemic.”

Meanwhile, the cries for help also continue. “I really understand the hard work of the [anti-epidemic] staff,” one Xi’an citizen writes: “But our family will soon run out of food. We live in a tiny neighborhood – please don’t forget about us.”

By Manya Koetse

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.

©2021 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

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

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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

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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 info@whatsonweibo.com.

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