Guiyang residents complain of hunger amid ongoing COVID-19 lockdowns across China

Residents at one compound in Shenzhen try to break down a fence, amid reports of heavy-handed enforcement tactics.
By Gu Ting and Chen Zifei for RFA Mandarin
2022.09.12
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Guiyang residents complain of hunger amid ongoing COVID-19 lockdowns across China Medical workers in protective suits collect swabs from residents at a nucleic acid testing site following a COVID-19 outbreak in Guiyang, Guizhou province, Sept. 9, 2022.
cnsphoto via Reuters

Mass lockdowns and travel restrictions under China's zero-COVID policy are sparking growing complaints of hunger, amid heavy-handed enforcement by local authorities keen to keep a lid on outbreaks ahead of the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP)'s forthcoming national congress.

Residents of the southwestern city of Guiyang said roadblocks have led to a breakdown in normal delivery routes, leaving food donated from elsewhere lying in rotting heaps on the ground.

Photos and video uploaded to social media showed signs in people's windows that read simply: "I want to eat," or yelling the same demand from their windows and balconies.

"What they're saying is true," a Guiyang resident said when contacted by RFA about the reports on Monday.

"Our compound is under lockdown; the shops are closed and the produce market is closed," the resident said. "Now you can't get a hold of any [food], and there is nothing at home."

In one video labeled as being shot in Guiyang, a middle-aged woman kneels in the middle of the street asking for food from people unloading goods.

"My son is waiting for help, help, all because people have nothing to eat," she shouts. "Kind people, I'm begging you!"

A Guiyang resident says in the video that the residential compound in question has had no supplies delivered now for several days, giving people no choice but to beg for something to eat.

The food shortages came amid reports of heavy-handed enforcement by police and local COVID-19 enforcers in the city.

In a clip dated Sept. 10, Guiyang police break into a residential apartment, pinning a sleeping man to the ground and reprimanding a woman for not wearing a mask, saying she would have to go to the police station.

"You are failing to cooperate with disease control and prevention measures, and disrespecting staff [who try to enforce them]," a police officer is heard saying.

In another clip, a group of police officers and COVID-19 enforcement personnel knock on the door of one resident of Guiyang, who refuses to undergo a PCR test, then threatens suicide.

"What's the point of arresting me? They used to do PCR testing overseas, but now they're not doing it despite the seriousness of the situation," the man says.

"The government is ordering people to die. I won't take the test; I'd rather jump off the building right now and die in front of you," he says, only to be detained by police, wearing only his underwear.

In a screenshot of a video labeled as being shot in Guiyang and posted to social media, a middle-aged woman kneels in the middle of the street asking for food from people unloading goods. Credit: citizen journalist
In a screenshot of a video labeled as being shot in Guiyang and posted to social media, a middle-aged woman kneels in the middle of the street asking for food from people unloading goods. Credit: citizen journalist
'End the lockdown!'

Meanwhile, in the southern city of Shenzhen, residents of Huaqiang Gardens, Niuxiangfang and other residential compounds were shown in a video clip on social media gathering and yelling: "End the lockdown! End the lockdown!"

Some of the crowd tries to push through the metal fencing around the compound.

A Shenzhen resident surnamed Zhang said there have been similar scenes in residential compounds across the city.

"Here in Futian [district of] Shenzhen, we have one of the most serious outbreaks," Zhang told RFA. "A lot of places remain under lockdown."

In Beijing, authorities at three educational campuses have ordered hundreds of students and faculty into quarantine amid an outbreak of COVID-19.

More than 500 students, staff and faculty at the Communication University of China were sent to compulsory quarantine camps on Friday night, with similar measures reported on the Changping campus of the Beijing University of Chemical Technology and at a high school affiliated with the Nationalities University of China.

A woman gets a swab test at a nucleic acid testing station, following a COVID-19 outbreak in Beijing, July 14, 2022. Credit: Reuters
A woman gets a swab test at a nucleic acid testing station, following a COVID-19 outbreak in Beijing, July 14, 2022. Credit: Reuters
Upcoming congress


Independent political commentator Wu Qiang said officials are scrambling to show they are fully compliant with CCP leader Xi Jinping's zero-COVID policy ahead of the CCP 20th National Congress on Oct. 16.

"I believe that the overriding political task for Beijing right now is to complete the transition of power at the CCP 20th National Congress," Wu said, in a reference to Xi's intention to seek an unprecedented third term in office at the congress.

"The zero-COVID policy is a form of political mobilization similar to the Cultural Revolution [1966-1976]," he said. "I think the methods they are using will become permanent, including total control over people using electronic means like the health code [COVID-19 app] and 'good citizen' certificates, alongside forced testing and arbitrary lockdowns."

"We will see institutional improvements after the 20th National Congress to strengthen the Chinese government's control over the whole of society," Wu said.

"This level of division and polarization will affect the fundamental stability of Chinese society, and the impact will be felt for a long time to come, especially over the next five years," he said.

Current affairs commentator Fang Yuan said zero-COVID has become a political vanity project, and a way to signal political ideology.

"It has moved away from the scientific principles of disease control and prevention, and will inevitably conflict with the need for economic development," Fang told RFA. "The two can no more co-exist than fire and water can."

"Enforced disease prevention and control measures will continue, although economic growth has already fallen sharply," Fang said. "A lot of people daren't try to image what the result will be."

"The economy is on the verge of collapse; that's the only way to describe it."

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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