Arbitrary Long Lockdown Shows Shanghai “the Precarity of Rights” Under Communist Xi

(p. A5) BEIJING — June [2022], for Shanghai, was supposed to be a time of triumph. After two months of strict lockdown, the authorities had declared the city’s recent coronavirus outbreak under control. Businesses and restaurants were finally reopening. State media trumpeted a return to normalcy, and on the first night of release, people milled in the streets, shouting, “Freedom!”

Julie Geng, a 25-year-old investment analyst in the city, could not bring herself to join. “I don’t think there’s anything worth celebrating,” she said. She had spent part of April confined in a centralized quarantine facility after testing positive and the feeling of powerlessness was still fresh.

“I feel there is no basic guarantee in life, and so much could change overnight,” she said. “It makes me feel very fragile.”

. . .

Some residents are confronting the precarity of rights they once took for granted: to buy food and to expect privacy in their own homes. Some are grieving relationships that fractured under the stresses of lockdown. Many people remain anxious about the weeks they went without pay or whether their businesses will survive.

Hanging over it all is a broader inability to put the ordeal fully behind them, as China still holds to its goal of eliminating the virus. The authorities announced recently that every district in the city would briefly lock down each weekend until the end of July for mass testing.

. . .

The long-term fallout of the containment policies was already becoming clear in the inquiries that Xu Xinyue, a psychologist, received in recent weeks.

When the pandemic began two years ago, said Ms. Xu, who volunteers for a national counseling hotline, many callers were scared of the virus itself. But recent callers from Shanghai had been more concerned with the secondary effects of China’s controls — parents anxious about the consequences of prolonged online schooling, or young professionals worried about paying their mortgages, after the lockdown pummeled Shanghai’s job market.

Others were questioning why they had worked so hard in the first place, having seen how money could not ensure their comfort or safety during lockdown. They were now saving less and spending more on food and other tangible objects that could bring a sense of security, Ms. Xu said.

“Money has lost its original value,” she said. “This has upended the way they always thought, leaving them a bit lost.”

. . .

Anna Qin, an education consultant in her 20s, has started going to the office and the gym again. She walks and bicycles around the city, delighting in feeling her feet on the pavement.

But the fact that such mundane things now feel so special is just a reminder of how much the city was forced to sacrifice.

“We’re glad it’s opening up again, but also there’s no acknowledgment of what we went through,” she said.

“Now it’s closed, now it’s open, and we have no control. And now we’re supposed to be happy.”

For the full story see:

Vivian Wang. “Strict Lockdown Is Over, But Raw Feelings Linger.” The New York Times (Thursday, June 30, 2022): A5.

(Note: ellipses, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date June 29, 2022 and has the title “‘Very Fragile’: Shanghai Wrestles With Psychological Scars of Lockdown.”)

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