Thousands of residents forced into quarantine: what happened last night in Beijing?

Has a new milestone in the health dictatorship been crossed in China? This Friday, late at night, thousands of people were evacuated from a residential complex in the southeast of Beijing, the capital of the country. A slow forced-march procession to ultra-monitored isolation hotels, for only a few cases of Covid-19 detected.

What happened

After the discovery of 26 cases of Covid-19, the Chinese government provided itself with an official notice, then proceeded to evacuate the entire Nanxinyuan complex, in the southeast of the capital. Some 13,000 inhabitants were thus awakened in the middle of the night, and arranged in tight rows. Then they were forcibly sent to quarantine, when they tested negative. The evacuation was filmed and broadcast on social media, despite censorship.

Pictures on social media showed hundreds of people queuing with their luggage in the dark to board coaches outside the residence. “Some of us have been locked up for 28 days since April 23, and we’ve all been tested since then,” a resident complained on Weibo. “Many of my neighbors are elderly or have young children.”

Why this quarantine?

Beijing is facing its biggest outbreak of contamination since the start of the pandemic. The Omicron variant has infected more than 1,300 people since late April, causing restaurants, schools and tourist sites to close indefinitely.

The authorities carry out numerous closures by zone, not hesitating to evacuate at the slightest doubt. “Experts have decided that all Nanxinyuan residents will be quarantined from midnight on May 21 for seven days,” read an announcement from Chaoyang district health authorities.

“Please cooperate or you will face legal consequences,” they added. Residents were then told to pack their clothes and essentials, and told their homes were going to be sanitized, according to discussions on Weibo.

A tougher policy

Last month, thousands of Shanghai residents were sent to makeshift quarantine centers hundreds of miles away as the metropolis of 25 million battled an outbreak. The city was still completely cordoned off until the announcement of a gradual lifting of restrictions at the end of last week.

If the authorities have announced the step-by-step liberation of Shanghai, China persists in a draconian policy of “zero Covid”, increasingly harsh as Omicron sets up: border closures, massive tests, city confinements whole and forced quarantines for contact cases, despite the appearance of strongly repressed pockets of resistance and the resulting fall in economic activity.

On Weibo, netizens on Saturday expressed concern that Beijing is taking a similar approach to that of Shanghai, where residents have endured a lockdown for weeks that has deprived many of adequate access to food and healthcare. During the evacuation of Nanxinyuan, some residents called the situation a “scene of war”.

“It’s exactly the same as in Shanghai, the first step is to cut off the water and electricity, then to demand keys… Then to disinfect the houses. Electrical appliances, wooden furniture, clothes, food… They are all ruined,” read a comment that had more than 300 likes.

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