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Police sent to Beijing university campus amid growing public anger over zero-COVID

Police were deployed to the campus of Beijing International Studies University at the weekend, as authorities in Shanghai step up forcible, mass isolation of residents in the wake of a top-down directive from ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leader Xi Jinping.

A post on the BISU leaders’ message board said restrictions on people entering and leaving the school campus and the fencing off of living areas to prevent the spread of COVID-19 had been implemented with no consultation, and before any official announcement had been made.

It said workers sent in to implement the restrictions and carry out disinfection work weren’t wearing masks, and that the measures had done little to stem the spread of the virus.

“Please could the leaders take charge on behalf of ordinary people,” the post said, adding that people were bound to gather in public spaces if they were prevented from moving around freely.

A video clip apparently shot at the BISU campus over the weekend showed rows of uniformed police officers standing ready, while a law enforcement officer gave a warning by megaphone.

“This is your first warning,” the officer says. “We hope you will cooperate with the school CCP committee … and disperse immediately.”

“If you are still here after the third warning, then the police will take lawful action to clear the area,” the officer says.

After an official tells them to use official channels to pursue complaints, one person shouts: “You’re crazy! What channels do I have?”

The BISU website posted a call for the university to obey CCP leader Xi Jinping’s call on colleges and universities to take part in his zero-COVID policy, which has led to grueling lockdowns enforced by steel barriers, forcible transfers to isolation facilities and ongoing mass testing in major cities including Shanghai, affecting tens of millions of people.

The BISU party committee said it viewed disease control and prevention as “the political priority for the present,” and would “resolutely implement” the policy, without need for local centers for disease control and prevention (CDCs) to get involved.

City lockdown

In Beijing’s Chaoyang district, residents of the Jiayuan residential compound were placed under lockdown by officials, who welded them into their apartment buildings with steel barriers.

Beijing resident Wang Qiaoling said dozens of families were confined to their homes by the move.

“These are 28-story high-rise apartment buildings, usually with three households to a floor, and sometimes four, so multiply 28 by three … it’s really scary,” Wang said. “Are any of them patients needing dialysis? Any who need to attend hospital or get out to buy medicines on a regular basis?”

Shanghai’s lockdown has resulted in an unknown number of seriously ill patients dying due to lack of access to hospitals, which are insisting on negative PCR results, a test that can take up to 48 hours to return a result.

“Is this what they mean by serving the people?” Wang said. “I bet the person giving this order didn’t have any family members in that block.”

“We had the Wuhan lockdown of 2020, and they’re still locking cities down. Not just lockdowns, either, but welding people’s buildings shut.”

Beijing-based current affairs commentator Ji Feng said Chaoyang is one of the most densely populated districts in Beijing.

While most people in the city are currently going about their lives in a normal manner, the targeted lockdown in Chaoyang show how far local officials are willing to go to please those higher up.

“It’s overkill at each level of the hierarchy,” Ji said. “If something gets said at the highest level, then every level below that overdoes the response, for fear of [spoiling their service record].”

“If nothing bad happens, there are no bad consequences for overdoing things … in China, no questions get asked by leaders or those lower down about the process; only the result,” he said.

‘Many are resisting’

Since Xi’s speech reiterating his commitment to the zero-COVID policy, authorities in Shanghai have also stepped up lockdown measures, emptying entire residential buildings and taking residents away to isolation centers if only one person tests positive for COVID-19.

“Please don’t go out,” a residential official is heard saying in one video posted to social media. “The entire building will be taken away if even a single person tests positive.”

Other videos showed enforcement personnel in PPE white suits forcing their way in to people’s homes, spraying disinfectant all over their belongings, and separating a woman from her child.

In one video, a resident refuses to leave with officials or to hand over the keys to her apartment.

A Shanghai resident surnamed Chen said people are trying to resist.

“Many people are resisting,” Chen told RFA. “I told them that it didn’t matter which leader came up with this idea; that it was totally unreasonable.”

Signs of widespread dissent are also emerging online, only to be rapidly silenced.

Chinese constitutional expert Tong Zhiwei had his Weibo account shut down after he wrote a post arguing that the forcible removal of residents to isolation centers, as well as the requisitioning of their homes for isolation purposes, is illegal in the absence of emergency legislation.

“These agencies have no right to use coercive means to force residents to be quarantined in makeshift hospitals,” Tong wrote. “Public authorities at all levels and of all types in Shanghai have the responsibility and obligation to immediately stop the use of coercive means to send any residents other than patients, pathogen carriers, and suspected patients to isolation facilities.”

He said the forcible requisitioning of people’s homes is also illegal.

“Officials in Shanghai forcing residents to hand over their house keys, then sending people into their homes for ‘disinfection’, is trespassing illegally in citizens’ homes,” Tong wrote, adding, “this practice has already been implemented in some areas.”

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.