Shanghai Residents Assaulted by Pandemic Control Officers Amid Harsh Enforcement of COVID-19 Curbs

By Rita Li
Rita Li
Rita Li
Rita Li is a reporter with The Epoch Times, focusing on U.S. and China-related topics. She began writing for the Chinese-language edition in 2018.
April 6, 2022 Updated: April 7, 2022

Law enforcement personnel have allegedly assaulted residents in Shanghai over apparent breaches of the locked-down city’s stringent COVID-19 restrictions, according to footage circulating on the Chinese internet.

In one video, at least eight people wearing white protective gear—including six who are said to be police officers—repeatedly punch and kick a young Shanghai resident on the street outside the Lianyang community in the Songjiang district. The man buries his head in his hands while being beaten, and later runs from the officers before being chased down and beaten again.

The video, apparently recorded from a nearby apartment, went viral on China’s internet.

When The Epoch Times contacted a local police station about the incident, an unidentified officer who answered the phone didn’t confirm or deny the incident, saying that “the pandemic prevention is the top priority [in Shanghai], everything else is less important.”

“What’s the point of reporting the negative side of such an issue?” said the officer, who refused to give further details, while indicating that inquiries should be made directly to the Shanghai Public Security Bureau (PSB), the city’s main law enforcement body.

That incident occurred amid a citywide lockdown that began on March 28 as part of the Chinese regime’s “zero-COVID” strategy. The measures include mass testing, central quarantining for all positive cases, and strict controls on the city’s 26 million residents, barring them from even leaving home other than for COVID-19 tests.

While the restrictions were intended to be lifted on April 5, authorities have extended the lockdown without providing an end date.

The Chinese regime has dispatched more than 10,000 health workers from across the country to the financial hub, including 2,000 from the military, to assist in mass testing as the city struggles to stamp out the fast-spreading Omicron virus variant.

Amid the lockdown, police, health care staff, community workers, and volunteers in protective clothing form the main presence on near-empty streets and communities.

Another video documents a similar scene in Chedun town of Songjiang district. In it, a pandemic prevention worker in white protective gear pushes a resident to the ground, stomps on his head, and repeatedly kicks him in the back as the man groans in pain.

A user on China’s Twitter-like Weibo who reposted the video posted an audio recording on the platform on April 5 revealing a call they received from an officer at the Songjiang branch of Shanghai’s PSB, asking for the video to be deleted. In the recording, the officer confirmed that the attack occurred in the past two days but refused to reveal the attacker’s identity, the user wrote.

“If I told you he was a police officer, the matter would be complicated to investigate,” the PSB officer told the user.

Weibo later took down the video, which triggered public anger online after more than 100,000 views. Some users drew comparisons with the Cultural Revolution, when roaming radicalized youths known as “red guards” would harass and assault anyone they deemed as falling afoul of Chinese Communist Party Chairman Mao Zedong’s prescriptions on political correctness.

Radio Free Asia reported on April 4 that the Chinese regime has deployed armed police to patrol communities in Shanghai, spotlighting Beijing’s concern over public anger and potential social unrest.

Another video that surfaced online shows a law enforcement officer in a white protective suit grabbing a Shanghai woman by the arm and escorting her out of her apartment in Songjiang district on April 4. The woman had refused to submit to a nucleic acid test mandated by the city.

The middle-aged resident failed to implement a “state of emergency” decision made by local authorities, police officers say in the video.

Zhang Li (pseudonym) confirmed to The Epoch Times that the woman was from Xinfu Kangli, a community in central Shanghai. Zhang herself didn’t take a COVID-19 test and worries that she will be taken away too.

“I told [the police] that I have been confined to my home for more than 10 days. Under the country’s rules, I have the right to choose to take the test or not,” Zhang said.

Epoch Times Photo
A woman hangs clothes outside her apartment during the second stage of the COVID-19 lockdown in the Jing’an district of Shanghai on April 6, 2022. (Hector Retamal/AFP via Getty Images)

Zhang said she doesn’t want to take a test because of a lack of transparency around the process and fears that officials may fake a positive result to frame her. In addition, people who test positive aren’t allowed to self-isolate at home and must be transferred to the city’s quarantine centers, which are overcrowded and have poor living conditions.

“I watched videos of several quarantine centers; some have no power outlets. Once your mobile phone is out of charge, you just don’t expect to send anything to the outside,” she said.

Shanghai authorities on April 7 announced that there were 17,077 new infection cases in the previous 24 hours, bringing the city’s total since March to over 90,000. However, the actual infection rate is likely significantly higher, according to experts and residents, who point to the regime’s propensity to downplay information that harms its image.

The strict curbs have triggered widespread complaints from residents, who have pointed to a shortage of food and medicine and a lack of access to medical treatment for non-COVID diseases. Parents have also complained about their children being forcibly taken away due to a government quarantine policy.

Officials have shown little sign of easing the measures, despite the growing human and economic toll of Beijing’s zero-tolerance COVID-19 strategy.

China-based author and dissident Huang Jinqiu previously told The Epoch Times that the current lockdown would do more harm than the virus itself, given the mounting suffering experienced by sealed-in residents.

“It simply doesn’t make sense to use such a large-scale, laborious, and economically destructive way to control the epidemic,” he said, particularly given that the Omicron variant is highly transmissible but has relatively low hospitalization and mortality rates.

Zhao Fenghua, Luo Ya, Li Shanshan, Yi Ru, and Lin Cenxin contributed to this report.

Rita Li
Rita Li is a reporter with The Epoch Times, focusing on U.S. and China-related topics. She began writing for the Chinese-language edition in 2018.