April 15, 2024

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'We're on that bus, too': In China, a fatal crash caused the shock of Covid

‘We’re on that bus, too’: In China, a fatal crash caused the shock of Covid

distance bus accident At least 27 people were killed while being transported to a Covid quarantine facility on Sunday, and the Chinese public staged a massive online protest against the government’s tough anti-epidemic policy.

It was a moment of collective grief and anger, with a heavy dose of shame, guilt, and despair. After nearly three years of continuous lockdown, mass testing and quarantine, people have asked how they can give the government the power to deprive them of their dignity, livelihood, mental health and even life; How could they fail to protect their loved ones from “Zero Covid “autocracy”; How long will the madness last?

They quoted the 1940 poem by Bertolt Brecht, German poet and playwright.

This is the year people will be talking about.

This is the year that people will be silent about.

The old man sees the young man die.

Fools see the wise die.

They shared on social media an old article titled “Evil is rampant because we obey unconditionally”.

They asked themselves, “What can I do so that I don’t end up on that bus?”

For them, they could easily have been 27 people who were forced to take the bus. The bus itself was a symbol of their collective “zero-Covid” fate: 1.4 billion people in the country are heading to an unknown destination. They felt that they had lost control of their lives as the government continued its policy relentlessly, even as the virus became milder and much of the world became anxious about it. Announces the end of the epidemic.

“We’re on that bus too” has been one of the most shared comments since the accident.

Local authorities said the bus was carrying 47 people from the southwestern city of Guiyang when it overturned in the early hours of Sunday morning. Besides the 27 people killed, the rest on board were injured.

The government of Guiyang, the capital of Guizhou Province, has not released any information about the identity of the victims, only saying that the passengers were “epidemic-related” residents from the same area. It may mean that they were from areas where cases have been detected, but that does not necessarily mean that they have the virus. According to Caixin Magazine, a respected news organization, most occupants live in the same apartment complex.

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Much of Guiyang was under lockdown this month after several hundred cases of Covid were discovered. local official He said On Saturday, the city ran out of quarantine rooms and more than 7,000 people were transferred to facilities in other parts of the province. Another 3,000 were in the process of transfer. He admitted complaints about long-distance transfers.

Angry social media users criticized the government, which on Friday set a goal of no new cases within days. People questioned the rationale for central quarantine, late-night transfers and other aspects of Covid policy. On Monday, the city lifted lockdowns in several neighborhoods.

“If it was just a traffic accident, the public wouldn’t be so angry,” a businessman wrote in his timeline on Chinese social media. “People are angry at the absurdity behind the incident: the endless waste of manpower and resources, the depletion of state funds and the tinkering around the public.”

The tragedy also sparked soul-searching about how the Chinese public could allow this to happen. Some people admitted that they were ashamed not to face the zero-Covid policy.

A writer known by his pen name, Livo, wrote in his timeline: “The saddest part is not that we witness a pointless death, but that we live a humble, obedient, twisted life and die a humble, obedient, twisted death.” . “We are not defending anything valuable.”

A widely circulated video shows a few young children in very large protective suits being sprayed with disinfectant before boarding the bus. The synopsis of the video wrote “Children, please remember.” “In the future when you pass the graves of our generation, don’t spit. Simply pee on us.”

The outpouring of emotions is likely to be the strongest since the night that the coronavirus whistleblower, Dr. Li Wenliang, Die in February 2020. But they didn’t do what they did that evening. They didn’t post videos of “Les Miserables” “Do You Hear the People Sing” because they learned their ruler doesn’t listen to them. They have not invoked their right to free speech, enshrined in the Chinese constitution, because it has been severely suppressed during the pandemic.

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Perhaps sadness, anger and despair are the last thing the supreme leader of China, Xi Jinpingwants in the run-up to the important communist party Conference Next month, when he is expected to get a standards-breaking third term. They have cast doubt on the “zero covid” policy that governs the participation of the entire country and throws the economy and society into chaos.

Senior officials say the policy protects the elderly and the vulnerable. They argue that it shows that the country’s political system is superior to that of liberal democracies, which, they said, have left many of their citizens dying from Covid. As the party convention approaches, the government has stepped up punishments for people who skip mass tests or disobey other anti-epidemic measures.

“Oh, pandemic! What crimes are committed in your name!” Zhang Qianfan, a professor of law at Peking University, wrote on his WeChat timeline, echoing the famous quote about freedom from the French Revolution.

Zheng Keqiang, a former party secretary at Nanchang University, a major university in southern Jiangxi Province, questioned politics in a repost on Weibo about the bus accident. He wrote that the idea that what happened in Goyang could happen anywhere in China was “really appalling.”

The government monitored and downplayed reactions to the tragedy. There are at least two hashtags on Weibo associated with the incident with nearly a billion views each, but neither are on the platform’s hot topics list. Articles, posts and comments have been deleted. People have reported that their social media accounts have been suspended or deleted for sharing or posting information about the incident or the “zero COVID” policy. Many social media posts allow the use of emoji candle and captions such as “RIP”.

One Weibo user wrote: “Stop saying ‘Rest in peace.'” Can they really rest in peace?”

Gao Yu, senior editor of Caixin magazine, criticized the “zero Covid” policy after learning of the bus accident. He led a team of Caixin reporters involved in a series of in-depth stories about the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan in early 2020.

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“Just because a very small number of people may die from Covid infection, an entire nation of 1.3 billion Chinese is being held hostage,” he wrote on his WeChat timeline. “The whole world is declaring the end of the epidemic, but in this great nation, the residents of an entire building can still be moved into central quarantine just because of one case of infection; an entire city can be forced into a standstill; people all over the country have to get used to sampling medical regularly.

“Time to wake up! It’s time to get back to normal! He wrote, concluding his long letter. “Resolutely against mass testing! We firmly oppose zero Covid!”

Mr. Zhao’s WeChat account has been deleted.

The day of the crash was the 91st anniversary of the Mukden Incident, which was the pretext for the Japanese invasion of Manchuria. It is known in China as National Humiliation Day. Some cities sounded sirens in remembrance, and many celebrities posted on Weibo the slogan “Don’t forget the national humiliation!”

Some social media users wrote that the 27 deaths gave the day a different meaning.

“National humiliation!” The former editor-in-chief of a magazine wrote on his WeChat timeline. “We are offended not only because we are being bullied but because we don’t dare respond.”

Most Chinese still fear the virus and may still support a “zero Covid” policy even as the costs weigh on everyone: the inconvenience of constantly taking swab, the frustration of needing health codes in every public place, the loss of income and jobs, and now, potentially, life.

The “Zero Covid” farce has cost the Chinese their lives, dignity, and normal way of living, a tech writer wrote on her WeChat timeline. But there was no way to escape from it, and there was little they could and could do about it.

“Tomorrow people will pretend nothing happened,” she wrote. “They’ll force themselves to keep going and pray so they don’t have to get on that bus next time.”

Claire Fu, Gui Dong, and Xixu Wang contributed research.