The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) secretary appeared to suggest to state media last week that the Chinese capital should anticipate another five years of strict COVID policies, including lockdowns, before his statement was quickly removed from state media in the wake of harsh criticism on social media.
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Cai Qi, speaking to Beijing Daily last Monday, said, “In the next five years, Beijing will unremittingly grasp the normalization of epidemic prevention and control.” State media also maintained that Beijing would maintain and improve its “strict management of the joint prevention and control coordination mechanism,” and the emergency response system, including those “isolation, management and control … as soon as [transmissions] appear.”
In addition, the report underlined the continuation of strict residential inspections, the “normalization” of routine testing, and the management of entry and exit from Beijing. Before being removed, the statement was circulated through other state media channels. In response to criticism directed towards the Chinese Twitter alternative Wiebo, Beijing Daily insisted that the statement was the product of an editing error.
In response to Cai’s statement, one Weibo user said, “Countdown to escape China.” For the next five years … what is the point of being alive even? Another person commented, “I have to rethink whether I should continue to stay in Beijing in the long term”. Since then, the hashtag “for the next five years” has been banned on Weibo.
Some have argued that although it appears in the context of a timetable, the term “five years” is used frequently in government announcements and that it was mistakenly included by the Daily. Others claim that the CCP was displeased since the announcement drew attention from Beijing’s COVID restriction relaxation.
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An uncut video of Cai’s comments reveals that the quote was false. But Cai insisted that Beijing might continue to impose strict COVID restrictions over the following five years.
The “zero-COVID” policy has been insisted upon by Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has also suggested that the policy be balanced with concern for economic growth. This past spring, Shanghai had harsh lockdowns, with reports claiming that residents were unable to leave their homes to get food. In the province of Anhui, where local authorities recorded an increase in 300 cases of COVID-19, new lockdowns have been imposed.
Despite its role in the COVID-19 outbreak, including allegations that the Wuhan Institute of Virology basically created the virus, China was unanimously selected to join the World Health Organization’s (WHO) governance board in May. Last month, it was made public that WHO Director-General Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus thinks that COVID-19 originated in Wuhan.