For over two weeks the financial capital of China, Shanghai, has been locked down tight. Some 26 million people languish in their apartments, staring at their now-empty refrigerators, unable to set foot outside to forage for food for fear of arrest and incarceration.
Day 16 of our COVID lockdown in Shanghai today and food is the key thing on people’s minds. We aren’t allowed to leave home so delivery is the only way I was up at 6 am yesterday trying to get any kind of delivery but nothing was available all day. So far, same results today
Yet the homebound are the lucky ones.
The unlucky ones are those who test positive for COVID each day, like the 17,077 Shanghainese who did on Wednesday. Symptomatic or not — and nine out of 10 show no signs of illness — they are hauled off to hastily erected quarantine camps.
The Shanghai lockdown, the largest since the first Wuhan lockdown two years ago, is China’s latest attempt to achieve COVID Zero. An army of health care workers, some 38,000 in all, have been sent to Shanghai, with instructions to completely stamp out the coronavirus within the city. They are frantically testing and retesting everyone.
Unable to protest their lock-up any other way, people have taken to venting their anger by yelling out of their apartment windows. Most of their complaints have to do with food. “We have no food to eat,” they scream. “We haven’t eaten in a very long time. We are starving to death.”
One starving lockdowner found a quieter way to protest his growling stomach. He rolled his refrigerator onto his balcony and opened its doors. The inside is completely empty.
Other protests have taken more tragic forms. As they did in Wuhan two years ago, people are once again jumping off the balconies of high-rise apartment buildings. One video circulating in China shows a couple falling to their deaths. The husband was said to be distraught because the lockdown had cost him his business.
Those desperate enough to venture outside in their search for food are hunted down by “Big Whites” — members of the security forces who owe their nickname to the white hazmat suits they wear. Patrolling the streets day and night, the “Big Whites” arrest and jail anyone caught breaking quarantine, who often get beaten in the process.
Those sent to mass quarantine camps for testing positive for COVID have it scarcely better. These makeshift facilities often lack basic necessities. One video from Shanghai’s Nanhui camp shows people fighting over limited supplies of blankets, water and food.
Like China’s previous efforts to contain the highly infectious Omicron variant, this one too is doomed to fail, although not before extracting an enormous cost. The dimensions of human suffering comes through in some of the videos posted by the suffering residents.
As these stories suggest, China has unleashed yet another COVID Horror Show on its population. But why?
Virtually every person on the planet now recognizes that they are simply going to have to live with the coronavirus from now on, in the same way that we have learned to live with the seasonal flu. Even countries that clung to China’s mass containment model well into 2021, such as Australia, New Zealand and Germany, are now abandoning it.
Yet the Chinese Communist Party continues to pursue the impossible dream of COVID Zero.
Now, you might say that no political organization likes to admit it was wrong. In fact, when asked recently why China refused to recognize that COVID was now endemic, a top official of the National Health Commission simply said, “If we stop all containment measures now, it means all the previous efforts are for nothing.”
But at an even deeper level, I see the Chinese Communist Party’s insistence on lockdowns as an expression of its drive for total control.
I am reminded of the CCP official who, in 1980, at the very beginning of the one-child policy, confidently proclaimed: “We are a socialist country. We can control reproduction in the same way we control production: under a state plan.”
Now Xi Jinping’s attitude seems to be: “We are a socialist country. We can control the replication of a virus in the same way we control production: under a state plan.”
When Sun Chunlan, a vice premier of the Chinese regime, visited Shanghai earlier this week, where tens of millions are under COVID-19 lockdown, she was greeted by residents shouting from their apartment windows: “There is no food left!” and “We are starving to death!”
Sun was accompanied by a swarm of local officials, cameramen, several vans with black tinted windows, and police vehicles. Yet the streets were empty. The residents could only view the envoy from their own apartments. Some were brave enough to shout from their windows or balconies. Someone called out to the officials, “Can you arrange some vegetables to be sent over?”
The officials, however, as seen in a video posted by residents in Jiading district, had no reaction whatsoever as if they did not hear anything.
Sun Chunlan, former head of the United Front Work Department, was appointed vice premier in 2018. Out of the four vice premiers, she is the only female and the oldest one. Since the pandemic, she has been staging high profile visits to COVID-stricken cities. This was not the first time she was shouted at.
Shanghai ‘Must Win the Battle’
Amidst mass testing and draconian lockdowns, Sun went to Shanghai with a stern message from Beijing, “unswervingly adhere to the zero-COVID policy and win the battle against COVID as soon as possible!”
Since the pandemic broke out in 2020, Sun has assumed the unofficial title of “COVID messenger” delivering Beijing’s orders to cities around China.
Sun Chunlan, Chinese regime vice premier and former head of the United Front Work Department. (Wang Zhao/AFP/Getty Images)
She went to the northeastern province of Jilin in late March. In Jilin City, residents shouted “we have no veggies!” from apartment buildings.
In mid-December 2021, Sun visited Xi’an city, 12 million population, when it was in lockdown. Sun urged the municipal government to “quickly reach zero cases.” While in Xi’an Gaoxin district, Sun was greeted by residents calling loudly “I want to eat!”
Back in March 2020 when the COVID broke out in Wuhan, Sun went to Wuhan. The residents called out “Fake, fake, it is all fake!” during her visit.
Afterward, the Wuhan residential neighborhood suffered the consequences. The entire neighborhood was in complete lockdown, nobody was allowed to enter or exit.
Shanghai Lockdown Continues
Shanghai has been under lockdown since April 1. On April 4, Sun Chunlan ordered the municipal government to “achieve zero COVID in society at large (excluding quarantine hospitals) as soon as possible.”
According to recent online postings, the municipal government issued a notice saying the lockdown will continue until at least May 1. As for what will happen after May 1, the notice said, it will be decided on May 1 whether to open up or continue the lockdown.