All week, China has been rocked by protests against President Xi Jinping and the Communist Party’s extreme “zero-COVID” policies, which have forced many to stay at home for months, possibly leading to the deaths of 10 people trapped in an apartment building fire on Nov. 24.
I asked friends in China — using encrypted apps that the Chinese surveillance state has declared illegal — to tell me why they are protesting the lockdowns. Here are four responses, minus the personal details that might get them arrested.
1. “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death!”
“I am a software engineer from Beijing. The “zero-COVID” policy that has gone on for three years has devastated the economy and the company I work for is on the verge of collapse. I and other employees are lucky to receive one-third of our normal salary. We are all struggling to pay our bills and just to get through daily life.
My son is suffering, too. When he is allowed to go to school, he has to take a daily COVID test and wear a mask, which harms his health and social development. During lockdowns he is forced to stay at home and take online classes, but even then the school demands daily COVID tests. My son is spending his childhood living in fear.
My family loves to travel. Before “zero-COVID” we would go on outings almost every weekend, camping in the picturesque outdoors or kayaking down a clear river. Now we can no longer travel freely, enjoying the beauty of nature, and making new friends in distant places.
During lockdowns we can’t shop in the mall down the street, or even see friends and relatives who live next door.