Under China’s new COVID rules, some face the same old restrictions
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Last week, China’s government tweaked its policy on zero tolerance for COVID. Among the 20 updated measures is an effort to stop local officials from adding additional COVID rules. The authorities are also being more targeted in their prevention measures.
In late May, lawyer Wang Shengsheng was on a business trip. She took a train from central China’s Zhengzhou to Wuhan city and was stopped at the train station.
“Staff insisted the Zhengzhou station I’d just come from was a medium-to-high-risk area. They demanded I quarantine right away,” she said in a video she recorded of the incident. “I said to the staff, ‘Your policy in Wuhan is evil.’”
”Evil,” because the place she came from wasn’t even a high-risk area, according to the list put out by the State Council, which is like China’s cabinet.
To the north of Wuhan, Datong city reported only four COVID infections at the start of last month. Then, it went into a sudden lockdown.
“Officials said it was because COVID infections were rising, but they didn’t outline a standard, like, how many cases does it take to trigger a lockdown? It all felt very arbitrary,” said a writer who got stuck in the lockdown. (He did not want to give his name for fear of official retaliation.)
“My parents don’t have any income because their shop is closed during the lockdown here and yet they still have to pay their employees and pay the rent,” the writer said.
Both he and lawyer Wang Shengsheng complained through government channels, without much luck.
“It’s really down to the person enforcing the rules,” said Wang. “The railroad employee was angry. I’d said his city’s policy was evil. So, he waved over a passenger who was on the same train as me. He let that passenger leave the station just to get back at me. He was showing me what he could do with the tiny bit of power he’s been given.”
She still refused to be quarantined. After a 21-hour standoff — complete with video updates on her social media — Wang Shengsheng was allowed to return home.
Under the updated COVID measures, none of this should be happening.
But the writer in Datong told us that as long as local officials can get fired or detained for losing control of the spread of the virus, many will choose to be more aggressive in implementing COVID prevention measures.
A few days after we spoke, the lockdown the writer was under lifted after 38 days — without explanation.
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