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Chinese netizens believed that China had COVID-19 under control.

Originally published on Global Voices

An announcement from Beiliu county, China, demanding all family members of school children must be vaccinated for the children to enrol. Image from Hong Kong-based CitizenNews.

A few dozen Chinese cities have introduced restrictive policies banning unvaccinated people from visiting public venues including schools, hospitals, mass transportation and shopping malls. More cities are expected to adopt similar policies.

The policy, which was announced without much explanation, came as a shock to many citizens who had been repeatedly assured that China has the COVID-19 pandemic under control, thanks to the flooding of positive news and messages on social media during the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party in early July.

Below is a celebratory message circulated on Chinese social media on July 2:

#建党100周年庆祝大会哪一幕令你印象深刻#

口罩,没了!

七一的天安门广场,数十万人聚集的活动,竟然全部没戴口罩。

当全世界都认为戴口罩是侵犯人权的时候,全中国都戴口罩,当全世界都被病毒搞得不得不戴口罩的时候,中国率先摘除了口罩。

小口罩的演变,折射出的是人权的真正体现,有五千年文明历史的泱泱大国干什么事情都有板有眼,正如联合国组织评价"中国是目前最淡定的国家",这淡定来自于自信,自信来自于自律,来自于自醒,来自于中华民族传统文化的优秀基因🇨🇳#何其幸运我们共睹这一天#

#Deeply impressed by the ceremony of the 100th anniversary of the Chinese Communist Party#
No more face mask!
On July 1, in Tiananmen Square, an activity that involved hundreds of thousand people, no one wore a mask.
When the whole world believed that wearing a mask is a violation of human rights, everyone in China wore a mask. When the whole world is forced to wear a mask because of COVID-19, China is the first country to take off the mask. 
The story of the mask reflects the true meaning of human rights. A big and strong country with 5,000 years of civilization, we handle things in an orderly manner. A UN organization commented ‘China is now the serenest country’, such serenity comes from our confidence, such confidence comes from self-discipline and self-awareness. All these come from the distinctive gene of the Chinese culture. #We are so lucky to bare witness to this day#

China hopes to reach a 70 percent vaccination rate by the end of 2021. Thus far, the country has given 1.38 billion doses, about 48 percent of its total population. However, the distribution has been rather imbalanced. In big cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou the vaccination rate is more than 80 percent. As for second- and third-tier cities and rural counties, the rate has fallen far behind. 

As the Delta variant spreads across Asia, virologists anticipate that the efficacy of the Chinese vaccines may go down by up to 20 percent. However, domestic news outlets quoted China’s prominent epidemiologist Zhong Nanshan that Chinese vaccines had been proven effective on variants. Some critics argue that China has yet to release adequate third-stage clinical data about the vaccines, which Zhong attributes to China’s lack of COVID-19 patients to test.

A hashtag #凡尔赛發言, meaning ‘a proud aristocratic speech’ was attached to Zhong’s speech to highlight China’s complacency in fighting against the pandemic.

The new restrictive policy posed a sharp contrast to all the positive messages circulating online in the past two weeks.  In addition, the lack of explanation in the governmental announcement has invited a flood of criticisms. Below is an announcement issued by Jinjiang city in Fujian province via mobile messaging: 

凡在我市工作生活﹑年滿18周歲(戶籍不限)且無疫苗禁忌症的人員均須接種。

7月22日起,年滿18周歲以上人員進入全市重點公共場所須主動出示疫苗接種記錄(八閩健康碼中含疫苗接種標識)。

7月22日前,全市黨政機關﹑企事業單位幹部職工和廣大黨員除禁忌症外必須完成接種。「應接未接」人員不允許上崗。

8月1日起,「應接未接」人員原則上不得進入全市醫療機構住院部(患者除外)﹑景區景點﹑養老院﹑托兒所﹑學校(含幼兒園﹑校外培訓機構)﹑文化娛樂場所。」

All residents above 18 (regardless of the origin of household registration) who have no medical reasons for not taking the COVID-19 vaccine, should be vaccinated.
Beginning July 22, all people above 18 have to show their vaccination record (vaccination label on the city’s mobile health code) before they enter major public facilities in the city.
By July 22, all party members and employees of government and party institutions, as well as their affiliated corporations have to be vaccinated (unless they have medical reasons). Those who have not been vaccinated will not be allowed to go to work.
Starting from August 1, unvaccinated individual without any medical reason will not be allowed to enter medical facilities (except if they are patients), touristic sites, elderly facilities, kindergarten, nursery, schools (including training institutions) and cultural and entertainment facilities.

The policy inconsistency has raised many questions like this one on Weibo:

从一开始的“自愿”到 “不强制”最后“限制出行”这就是政府的公信力?这就是社会主义? ​

At the beginning, [the authorities said] vaccination was on a “voluntary base”. Later, it was “non-coercive” and eventually it became “restricting movement”. This is government’s credibility? This is socialism?

Although people with medical reasons can be exempted from the restriction, it is not easy to get medical proof. Below is one experience shared on Weibo:

由于身体原因不能接种疫苗,现在实习单位要我出示不能打疫苗的证明。结果跑了两家疫苗接种点都让我去附二医开证明,结果附二医说他们有文件说医生不得给患者开相关证明,打电话给12345也不告诉我怎么办,所以到底要我怎么办呢要强制大家打疫苗,难道所有人都是健康体质都是可以打的吗???

Due to my health, I can’t receive the vaccine, but my internship organization demanded medical proof. I went to two vaccination stations and they asked me to go to the hospital. But the doctor in the hospital said that they were instructed not to issue medical proof to the patients. I called the hotlines, but they did not offer me any solution. What should I do? Not all people are in condition to take vaccines!

Other Weibo users point out that the policy may infringe citizens’ privacy:

不能打疫苗的人一点隐私都没有了,去个公共场所就得跟人说明“我八十了”“我打hpv了”“我备孕着呢”“我有基础病”,谁想出的这个破点子,脑袋里面进屎了吗 ​

For those who could not receive vaccines, they don’t have any privacy. Whenever they enter public facilities, they have to explain “I am over 80”, “I have just received a HPV vaccine”, “I am pregnant”, “I have a certain disease”. Who came up with such a bad idea? Something wrong with his brain?

Some are also worried that similar tactics would be applied in other policy areas in the future:

通过限制出行、入学以及停薪停职这些损招来达到目的,长远地看,就怕有了第一次之后,也会有第N次。你说今后他们要是肆无忌惮地在别的领域依样画瓢、如法炮制,迫使咱们顺从,那日子能好过到哪里?因此,我觉得吧,无论咱们是否已接种,都应该坚决地抗yì这种野蛮的一刀切。

Once they manage to achieve a policy objective by means of restricting movement, depriving rights to education, suspending salary and work, in the future, similar tactics would repeat N times. If they apply the same means in other policy areas to force us to comply, what will become of our lives? Whether we have received a vaccine or not, we should resist such a brutal zero sum policy. 

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