Shanghai, China’s economic and commercial hub with a population of over 24 million, has been in a hard lockdown for the past two months, which has only just been lifted by the municipal government. Production activities were halted, businesses shut down, and residents were barred from leaving their homes.
Residents have decried the absolute and heavily enforced restrictions, some unnecessary, imposed by their communities, while government staffers from Shanghai’s many local community committees deferred residents’ complaints by saying they were just following “orders from above”—referring to the municipal and central government authorities.
Community committees are the grassroots level of the Chinese regime’s government structure, and are under the direct supervision of subdistrict offices. They take charge of almost all civil affairs in the community, including enforcement of the regime’s policies such as family planning, maintenance of social security, and distribution of aid, among others.
Despite Shanghai’s announcement that it was lifting lockdown restrictions on June 1, many residents have expressed doubt over whether their local community committees will actually follow through with the relaxing the restrictions.
Several Shanghai residents told the Chinese-language edition of The Epoch Times that their community committees have continued to imposing strict lockdowns to avoid responsibility for any possible spreading of COVID-19.
Tang Hua (an alias) from Shanghai’s Hongkou District said in an interview on May 31 that there has been no notice from her community committee about allowing residents to move around freely again.
“Now the municipal government says to lift the restrictions. But who will be responsible for the relaxation? What prevention measures should be taken? They (community committee management) have said nothing. We in the community are still required to take nucleic acid testing today,” she told The Epoch Times.
At a regular presser on May 31, the municipal officials announced that, effective from June 1, only visitors from other districts would be required to do PCR COVID-19 tests. But residents from Fengxian District, Pudong District, and Songjiang District told The Epoch Times that they are still required to undergo PCR testing and also don’t expect their community committees to relax many restrictions.
Mr. Li (pseudonym) from Songjiang District said that his community committee told their residents that PCR testing was “a unified arrangement from higher above.” They were not able to present any documentation of the order when Mr. Li asked for it.
“There hasn’t been any single positive case in our compound in the past 50 days, so what’s the point of continuing with the tests when there is no positive case at all?” Mr. Li complained to his community committee.
Municipal Government Shirking Responsibility
Gu Guoping, a retired university teacher and rights activist based in Shanghai, said that the city’s municipal government let the community committees decide on their own restriction measures as a means of deferring any blame.
“They have put the blame on the grassroots level by doing so,” Guo told The Epoch Times in an interview. “But the community committee dare not take it upon themselves to impose the restrictions; they have to follow instructions from their superiors.”
“The government does this with one benefit: [the lockdown] isn’t done by the government, but by the community committee, which is meant to be elected by residents,” Gu added.
According to a document issued in 2010 by the general offices of the CCP’s Central Committee and of the State Council, the community committees, under the CCP leadership, have five to nine members who are elected by residents. Their work expenses and personnel remuneration, and the costs for establishing and maintaining information networks are included in the financial budget of the government. It is also stipulated that local governments should set up a community committee where there are 100 to 700 households.
“But in reality, the committee members are chosen by the government; we haven’t elected them,” Gu said.
Hardship and Suffering
Residents in Shanghai have suffered depression and people have died due to a lack of medical treatment during the lengthy and heavy-handed lockdown.
Chinese news portal NetEase released a survey on May 5 that found that 40 percent of residents had reported signs of depression.
Residents also experienced soaring prices of food and supply, and many people, especially the elderly, were starved because they could not get any food. Relief provisions from outside of Shanghai were either stranded on the road due to the strict lockdown policy, abandoned on site, or sold to residents by the authorities.
A netizen by the name “Guan Hong the Director” wrote: “[The lockdown] started as a fools’ play and ended as a child’s play,” as the lockdown began on April 1 and was ended on June 1, which is Children’s Day in China.
The Epoch Times has reached out to Shanghai’s municipal government and some community committees for comment. A staffer working at the city’s civil affairs bureau declined to comment.
One community committee member from Puxi District replied that PCR testing was still needed as residents need to scan their various health codes when entering or exiting compounds. Of the lockdown, he said that they were following orders from higher-level governments.
“Do you think we at the community committee have the right to lock down the city?” he said.
A member from a community committee in Pudong District replied that the notices they issue are from the subdistrict office.
Luo Ya and Lin Cenxin contributed to the report.