Chinese armed police parade ‘Covid restriction violators’ through streets as zero-Covid strategy falters

Archbishop Jerome Lloyd OSJVPosted by

The public shaming was part of disciplinary measures announced by the local government to punish those breaking health rules

Chinese armed police parade ‘Covid restriction violators’ through streets as zero-Covid strategy falters

Chinese police have been filmed parading alleged violators of lockdown rules through the streets in an apparent return to a policy of public shaming that was banned ten years ago.  

Riot police escorted four masked men dressed in white hazmat suits and carrying placards bearing their names and photographs through the city of Jingxi, a city on the Vietnamese border in China’s Guangxi province, on Tuesday.

Footage that emerged on Wednesday showed the four being marched by similarly dressed officers slowly along a street flanked by a police.

They were closely followed by a column of officers in full riot gear, while a large crowd watched the spectacle from the other side of the police cordon.

Chinese lockdown rule-breakers are publicly shamed
Chinese lockdown rule-breakers are publicly shamed

Local media said the four men were also accused of smuggling illegal immigrants across the nearby border with Vietnam. China’s borders are largely closed due to the pandemic.Advertisement

The parade is a “real-life warning” to the public, and “deterred border-related crimes”, Guangxi News, a state-owned regional news outlet, said.

But it also led to a backlash led by other parts of the Communist Party establishment, reflecting widespread public unease with the heavy-handed enforcement of the nation’s zero-Covid strategy. 

Although Jingxi is “under tremendous pressure” to prevent imported coronavirus cases, “the measure seriously violates the spirit of the rule of law and cannot be allowed to happen again,” Chinese Communist Party-affiliated Beijing News said Wednesday.

Medical workers in protective suits collect swabs from residents at a nucleic acid testing site during a third round of mass testing following cases of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Yuncheng's Jishan county, Shanxi province, China December 29, 2021
Medical workers in protective suits collect swabs from residents at a nucleic acid testing site during a third round of mass testing following cases of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) in Yuncheng’s Jishan county, Shanxi province, China December 29, 2021 CREDIT: China Daily/Reuters

The Jingxi City Public Security Bureau called the event an “on-site disciplinary warning activity” and insisted there was no “inappropriateness”, according to local media.

Tuesday’s incident was not the first use of public humiliation by Jingxi’s government, which introduced a package of disciplinary measures to enforce strict anti-Covid restrictions in August.

At a similar event in November two prisoners were held in front of a crowd while an official read out their crimes, before being paraded through the streets.

Public shaming was widely used during the Cultural Revolution in the 1960s, but had become relatively rare by the time it was finally banned in 2010.

The decision to abolish the practice followed an outpouring of public disgust over “shame parades” targeting prostitutes as authorities struggled to contain a booming illegal sex trade in the 2000s

In one event in 2006 police paraded about 100 women and several male clients in handcuffs and bright yellow jumpsuits through the city of Shenzhen. The incident was denounced at the time by a coalition of academics, lawyers, and women’s rights groups.

Strictest lockdown of the year

It came as authorities in central China imposed the country’s largest and strictest lockdown since the initial months of the pandemic in 2020 in a bid to suppress a fresh outbreak of the virus.

The city of Xi’an, on Monday told its 13 million residents to stay home unless they are invited for mass testing or have a medical emergency.  

The city entered lockdown last Thursday after it emerged that a case of Covid had escaped quarantine.

Previously one member of each household was allowed out every two days to shop for provisions, and the new restrictions drew complaints that residents would run out of food.

‘I’m about to be starved to death,’ wrote one person on Weibo, China’s equivalent of Facebook. ‘There’s no food, my housing compound won’t let me out, and I’m about to run out of instant noodles … please help!’

Officials said people in low risk areas would be allowed out to buy essentials once testing is complete, and if their results are negative.

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