A video that has been circulating since May 1 on Chinese social networks shows police officers in white sanitary suits breaking down the door of an apartment in Shanghai to take one of the residents to a quarantine centre. The video reflects the chaos generated by China’s “zero Covid” policy in the city of 26 million residents, under lockdown since early April 2022.
The video was filmed by one of the apartment’s two residents from inside. It shows one of them speaking to a man, also wearing a sanitary suit, from the window. He says that the police are looking for them and tells her to open the door.
On the other side, the police officers pound on the locked door and then break it down when the two residents refuse to open up. A man dressed in a sanitary suit, with a surgical mask and a visor then enters the apartment, followed by two other people in the same outfit. Each of them wears an armband and has the inscription “police” written in Chinese and English on their chests.
They ask the two women to follow them. Worried, the women say they will call the police. “We are the police”, one of them retorts. “You tested positive, we’re here to transfer you,” another says. The women say their results are not yet available.
Shanghai’s 26 million residents have been on lockdown since April 5, 2022, under very strict conditions: residents are confined to their homes, receive their food through deliveries organised by the authorities, and can only go out to undergo PCR tests. People who test positive are sent to quarantine centres.
‘You don’t know what the rules are and even if you do know, it doesn’t seem to matter, because it’s all down to the individual people enforcing the actions when they come for you’
Maria Wang (not her real name), a resident of Shanghai, discovered the scene on Weibo. She did not know the two women in the video but recognised her apartment building in the video. Her neighbours’ WeChat (Chinese equivalent of WhatsApp) group message also referred to the incident, with another video showing the damage caused by the police.
This just happened in our compound. Police broke in & forcibly took someone away, without a positive COVID test (according to neighbour, the results are pending, & residential committee & cdc agreed to review/confirm latest test results before doing anything) #shanghailockdown pic.twitter.com/vUlQTJ79WV
— Linette Lim 林明燕 (@LinetteMLim) May 1, 2022
Wang lives in the same apartment building and sent us photos of the decor that can be seen from her apartment, corresponding to elements seen in the video.
No one is allowed to go out and questions posed on the neighbour’s chat seeking info never gets answered.
The situation (of police breaking in to retrieve an ‘abnormal’ but not proven Covid-positive case) is even more incredulous given that since early April, in our compound there have been many cases of positive cases not transferred [to quarantine centres]. By April 29, after pressing volunteers who were administering Covid tests, we got info that everyone is now negative, but on some 7-day personal monitoring regime, and so no one can leave the building.
The situation is extremely frustrating because people have always been happy to comply, but there’s no communication, there’s no process.
Since the beginning of the lockdown in Shanghai, other videos that have circulated on Chinese social networks show residents attempting to protest against their transfer to quarantine centres.
Published on April 19, this exchange between a German living in Shanghai who says he is negative and does not have to go to the quarantine centre and a translator from the neighborhood committee where he lives has gone viral.
Because the conditions in these facilities tend to be poor (lights on 24/7, no privacy, poor sanitary facilities, for example, no running water for showers), people try to avoid going because in many cases, they recover by themselves in a few days.
The issue is lack of due process and clarity over the rules. And in general, there is this atmosphere of randomness and uncertainty, where things are carried without clear legal basis. You don’t know what the rules are and even if you do know, it doesn’t seem to matter, because it’s all down to the individual people enforcing the actions when they come for you.
More and more Shanghai residents are trying to protest against lockdown conditions despite widespread censorship in China. On April 23, the video “Voice of April”, which compiles the complaints and cries of distress of Shanghai residents recorded during the month, became a symbol of dissent. Massively re-shared, the video is now impossible to find on Chinese social networks.