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The World Needs to React to What’s Happening in China

The World Needs to React to What’s Happening in China

The World Needs to React to What’s Happening in China



The protests and demonstrations spreading throughout China are not news to many. While it is important that the political implications of COVID-related tragedies in China are discussed, it is more important to acknowledge both the consequences and purposes of the extremely risky decisions the Chinese people are making.

For the past three years, the Chinese government has stubbornly held to zero-tolerance COVID policies (including mandatory quarantines and district- and city-wide lockdowns lasting months). For many, these policies have resulted in lowered standards of living, separation from family members, and even death.

Last year, Shanghai, a city of over 26 million people, was completely shut down due to a surge in COVID cases. People were forced to remain in their homes while being periodically tested for several months. A shortage of sanitation supplies and food, and the inability to access effective healthcare were just a few of the dire problems the residents of Shanghai faced. Residents allege that poorer residents of the city starved, as the price of food and supplies rose sharply. The Chinese government still pressed for stricter protocols as citizens suffered, largely in silence. Recently, however, the silence has been replaced by large-scale protests and demonstrations.

On November 24, a fire was reported in an apartment building in Urumqi, China. Firefighters showed up at the scene shortly after the building was set ablaze, but could not access the compound for hours because of barriers that prevented anyone from entering. Video recordings leaked to Chinese social media for a short period of time before they were taken down shows water from trucks outside the barrier reaching just short of the blaze. Other leaked videos on social media showed people screaming to be let out of the building and begging for oxygen for themselves and their children.

Official state media reported the death count from the fire as ten. However, many residents of the compound who lived through the fire say the death count is closer to twenty. The youngest victim was a three year-old. In the wake of this tragedy, the government has published articles and given press conferences defending themselves and blaming the people, claiming, according to CNN, that residents were not sufficiently familiar with safety exits. Further investigations revealed that the now charred apartment building had fire exits, but that they were welded shut due to a COVID lockdown.

Despite the government’s attempts to stop the circulation of published chat histories between residents and the government officials in control of the compound, and audio messages of a weak mother’s voice, strained from the lack of oxygen for herself and her children, evidence of their mishandling of the situation has infuriated the Chinese people. In a rare show of discontent, the Chinese people have taken to the streets to protest the government’s policies.

The people’s current suffering should not be happening. The Chinese people have endured the strict policies of the CCP in exchange for an elevated standard of living as well as guaranteed safety. However, for months now, the government has been endangering Chinese lives in the name of pandemic control. These policies, designed to prevent a dangerous virus from spreading, have, however, done more harm than good, separating families and endangering the lives of many.

It is slowly becoming apparent to the Chinese people that the zero-tolerance policy is being used as an excuse to control the population, not to keep people safe. For example, the jian kang bao – which assigns every restaurant or public space a unique QR code, has allowed the government to track people’s movements every time they leave their homes. The strict quarantine protocols have also enabled the government to “quarantine” anyone based on COVID test results that may or may not be legitimate. The government says this level of control is for effective contact tracing and to prevent the spread of COVID, but these efforts suspiciously support Xi’s other efforts to strengthen a centralized government while suppressing any opposition.

Many Chinese do not see themselves as opposing the government, but only the zero-tolerance COVID policies that have harmed so many citizens. In a viral video circulated on social media, one man leading a protest said, “We love China, we love the CCP, but we want our freedom.” Others are opposing what they see as the CCP’s tyrannical rule. Either way, the situation should be seen as a tragedy for mankind as a whole. People are not longer safe in their homes, and instead, live in constant fear of their lives.

For three years, the Chinese government has used the pandemic to strengthen its control at the cost of its people’s well-being, and we’ve had enough. We’ve had enough of seeing and hearing the stories of people we do not know suffer and die and wonder if our families and friends will be next. As students abroad, we’re scared for our loved ones who are still in China. The protests in response to the fire in Urumqi are being called the start of a revolution. This needs to be a wakeup call for the Chinese government to change.

Benjamin Who is an editor-in-chief of The Record.

September 28th

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Editor's Note: This article was recovered from The Record's online archive. There may be stylistic and visual errors that interrupt the reading experience, as well as missing photos. To read this article as it appeared in print, view our print archives.

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Editorials are written by members of The Record's Executive Board. They typically center on issues related to the school or student life on campus.

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