Hong Kong
The Sunday Review
 — 

Residents under Covid lockdown in China’s southern manufacturing hub of Guangzhou have torn down barriers meant to confine them to their homes, taking to the streets in defiance of strictly enforced local orders, according to video and images circulating on social media.

Some of the images show large crowds cheering and surging across toppled barriers and filling streets after dark in the city’s Haizhu district, which has been under an increasingly restrictive lockdown since November 5, as the epicenter of the city’s ongoing Covid outbreak.

The sound of falling metal barriers reverberates through the neighborhood, and is accompanied by cheers. This scene was reportedly captured by multiple social media users. It took place on Monday night in District streets.

Covid workers, wearing protective medical wear, can be seen trying to talk with street residents while standing at the sidelines of the falling barriers in one video. “They’re revolting,” a woman’s voice is heard saying in the background of one of the videos. The Sunday Review geolocated the images in Haizhu, but was unable to confirm their authenticity.

It is unclear how many people participated in the protest or how long they lasted. Chinese censors quickly removed similar posts from the internet.

The Sunday Review reached out to the Haizhu District Government Office phone line. An operator informed us that the area was still accessible. “largely closed off”.

Operator declined to answer questions about recent protests.

The public protest – an exceedingly rare event in China, where authorities keep tight control over dissent – appears as yet another sign of the mounting public anger and desperation over the government’s stringent zero-Covid policies.

The scenes in Guangzhou, which reported over 5,100 new Covid cases on Tuesday – the vast majority asymptomatic – come as Beijing’s unrelenting drive to stamp out the spread of the virus faces questions of sustainability, amid fast-spreading new variants.

China is currently experiencing an epidemic of infections, this time caused by simultaneous outbreaks that have affected multiple cities. Local authorities and residents are struggling to control the situation.

On Tuesday, China’s National Health Commission reported more than 17,772 new Covid cases across the country, its highest total since April 2021, with Guangzhou, a city of 19 million, accounting for more than a quarter of those.

Last week, the city placed three districts including Haizhu under lockdown in a bid to stem the spread, imposing a raft of restrictions’ on residents’ movements and business activity. In recent days, additional measures were taken to protect neighborhoods. “high risk.”

Zhang Yi, vice director of Guangzhou’s municipal health commission, said Monday at a news conference “pandemic containment measures” Will be “enhanced” – a veiled reference for lockdowns – in the entirety of Liwan and Panyu districts, as well as parts of Haizhu and Yuexiu districts.

The rising case numbers and accompanying controls have pushed more residents across China to question the costs of the brute-force measures employed by authorities to stamp out cases, which include mandatory quarantining close contacts of Covid patients, mass testing, and lockdowns that can see people confined to their districts, neighborhoods or apartments – sometimes for months on end.

Beijing’s highest officials, including Xi Jinping the Chinese leader, have pledged to ensure that the measures are balanced with economic and other social interests. Last week, authorities revised the policy to include disallowing unnecessary mass testing and prohibiting overly zealous classifications of restricted substances. “high risk” areas.

They also largely scrapped the quarantining of secondary close contacts and reduced the time close contacts must spend in central quarantine – all changes officials insist are not a relaxation but a refinement of the policy.

These measures were taken by Xi as he prepared for a week of diplomacy Attending summits in Southeast Asia was a sign that China was ready for a return to the global stage. Xi met with key Western leaders this month, the first meeting since the pandemic.

But for the citizens back home who are trapped in lockdown, recurring issues like accessing prompt medical care or enough food and supplies, or losing work and income – have over and over again led to hardship and tragedy, including numerous deaths believed to be linked to delayed access to medical care.

Guangzhou’s Haizhu district, where images showed nighttime protests, is home to a number of migrant workers living in densely packed buildings in areas known as “urban villages.”

These residents may find it difficult to live with the harshness of the oppressive measures. Officials delivering goods might not know the true number of people who need supplies in a particular housing block. There’s also no option of remote work to preserve income for those employed in factories and on construction sites.

Social media messages showed that Haizhu residents were originally from Guangzhou and asked for help, such as rent or supplies compensation.

A man can be heard shouting in a viral video on social media. “Us Hubei people want to eat! Us Hubei people want to be unsealed!” Referring to another province of China where many of the district’s migrant workers are from. He is part of a crowd that’s gathered facing a Covid workers in hazmat suits.

Another man questions the workers in a separate clip from the same scene: “If your parents have gone sick, how would you feel? If your children are suffering from fever and prevented from leaving (for the hospital), how would you feel?”

In another video, people can be heard shouting their frustrations and despair to a man identifying himself as the neighborhood manager and saying he wants them to get help. One resident rushes forward to say that as non-local residents they’re left to queue for hours for Covid-19 testing and the meat sold to them by the government has gone bad, while they can’t get through to local support hotlines.

“Nobody came to explain and the community’s office line is always busy. And our landlord doesn’t care if we live or die. What should we do?” “The resident” is what the other members of crowd are chanting together, “Unseal! Unseal!”

Monday’s city news conference saw a Haizhu official admit criticisms of the fact that the restrictions could have been announced earlier, and with more detail on the affected areas.

“We have also realized many of our shortcomings,” Su Mingqing is a deputy head in Haizhu District.