Quarantined in the Chinese city of Shangrao in Jiangxi province, Ms. Fu watched the beginning of her pet corgi, Chaofen’s, last moments. Fu was able to see what was happening in real time on her phone through a security camera app, and attempted to intervene remotely, and helplessly, as Communist Party epidemic control staff began bludgeoning her corgi to death in her own home.
Just hours earlier, Ms. Fu had sought and been given assurances that her dog would not be harmed after being taken away for a mandated quarantine and test. According to reports, Ms. Fu tested negative for Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19), while Chaofen had not been tested at all.
On Nov. 13, Jiangxi authorities confirmed—after great public uproar—that epidemic control staff had beaten Ms. Fu’s pet corgi to death with a crowbar. According to the Wall Street Journal, officials called it “biosafety disposal” that happened “amid imperfect communication.”
While for some netizens, their online anger was about animal rights in China, others saw the outrage as being against the communist regime’s “endlessly expanding state power” brandished in the name of fighting against COVID.
For many, the online response to the rare evidence footage was not political, but visceral.
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After watching the first stages of the assault, Ms. Fu shared the news of her Corgi’s murder and the footage she had been able to get of the attack on Weibo, the Chinese version of Twitter, enraging and astounding viewers with the cruelty of the epidemic control staff.
The scene began with a pounding on the door, which startled the corgi out of its bed with a slight growl. Soon after, two men in hazmat suits entered the apartment. They began talking casually, despite the abrupt pounding just moments before, with one holding a yellow disposal bag.
CNN reported a translation of the perfunctory discussion. One man asked, “Did the leader say we need to settle it right here on the spot?”
“Yes,” the other replied. He approached the animal with a crowbar, shuffling past its giraffe-patterned soft dog bed and a toy. The helpless corgi—alert and appearing healthy—cowered back against the wall. The man then lunged forward and used the metal rod he carried to issue a quick, hard strike to the corgi’s face.
The dog drew back into a quivering ball before diving under a table. The table was removed by the epidemic control staff who held the crowbar, with the legs of the table dragging the dog’s two back legs along. The corgi then broke free and attempted to run to safety out of view of the camera.
WSJ reports that Fu used a speaker controlled by her security app that fed into the apartment to beg the men to leave Chaofen alone. Nevertheless, after the whimpering stopped off camera, a man removed a limp, yellow bag.
Fu did not see her dog killed on camera, and was not certain if it had died.
She shared in a post, which has since been deleted, “The dog tried to avoid the beating and fled into the bedroom, and therefore it wasn’t recorded by surveillance camera, but (I) could hear faint wails. A few minutes later, they said they’ve dealt with it and would take it away, holding a yellow plastic bag in their hands.”
The owner added at the time of her post, “Even now I don’t know whether my dog is alive or dead, and where it has been taken.”
Fu had been forced to leave her apartment for a compulsory quarantine and COVID test at a state run facility, during which her building would be disinfected. This occurred after very few positive cases had been detected in her apartment complex, but local municipalities are under tremendous pressure from the central government to achieve “COVID zero” in their areas.
Although sequestered, Ms. Fu did not test positive during her quarantine. She said that workers gave her many reassurances before she was taken away on Friday morning, specifically that her dog would not be impounded or killed during the disinfection of the building.
Pet owners’ fear is growing in China amidst repeated reports of animal slayings occuring amid the Communist Party’s enforcement of draconian COVID measures.
A statement late the next day from the local government confirmed that the corgi had been killed, conceding that the assailants had been sent to “thoroughly disinfect” the dwelling, and that they had “safely disposed” of the dog without communicating fully with the owner.
The government also claimed that the workers involved had been criticized, with one being removed from his position; additionally, the authorities issuing the statement represented to have gained the understanding of the owner, to whom they had apologized.
Fu put it somewhat differently: she said that her local leaders and her employer had coerced her into deleting her Weibo posts.
In the CCP’s China, many reports have surfaced in the past two decades of the brutality of civil servants and first responder workers, especially Chinese police. It is rare to have video feed evidence. The Chinese public responded in shock to the rare opportunity to witness footage.
The outcry over a small dog has been able to percolate on social media where other forms of umbrage have not.
Many members of the public had not believed that stories of brutality at the hands of the state were true, as the CCP maintains a false public image. The dysphoria rippling through China over Chaofen’s fatal beating may have been brewing beneath the surface for some time.
If videos existed of the beating deaths and abuse of children, women, and men at the hands of CCP employees—victims as innocent and even more deserving of pardon than this trapped family dog—the outcry could be something previously not seen in China.
There is also an element, less deep, that doesn’t help any authorities wishing to avoid the scathing social media firestorm: corgis are adored in China. There is even a Hello Corgi Cafe in one of China’s most populous and wealthy cities, which allows customers to pet the shop’s numerous corgis while enjoying tea or coffee and sweets.
The cafe owner explained in an interview with Lifestyle.Inq, “We want to provide a place to those who want to play with corgis but are not able to raise one at home.” This brings us to one other overlooked issue at play in this gruesome scenario. Unlike cats, which can be rescued on the street, corgis are expensive, and are the pets of a more privileged class.
Those upset about a corgi might have the means to fuel their outcry in a more sustained manner.
Lastly, this kind of outrage is also a trending sentiment. Posts related to the killing of animals under the COVID Zero campaigns in China have been drawing heated public reaction on the internet, with last week’s case being one of the most severe instances. Residents from both Chengdu and Harbin have reported that cats were euthanized when their owners were quarantined.
In the Harbin instance, as well as in one Wuxi, NPR reports that workers entered the homes of quarantined individuals and killed their pets. While reports often used the word “euthanized,” the plight of Fu’s “safely disposed” corgi sheds light on the form that such euthanization might take.
The CDC has stated that people can spread the virus to animals via close contact but that, “The risk of animals spreading COVID-19 to people is low.”
According to CNN, Chinese social media platform Douban carried the following commentary on the country’s state of affairs, “From the earlier killing of the three cats to today’s killing of the dog, it’s getting worse and worse. The so-called debate around ‘animal rights’ is merely a camouflage — the issue at heart here has always been the wanton infringement of individual (rights) by the endlessly expanding state power.”
One Weibo post revealed a citizen’s fear that government contact tracing of a family member’s cell phone could lead to the killing of the family’s pets. According to Qatar news source The Peninsula, the user wrote, “I’m so afraid now. I live in Chengdu and have two pets. My family loves them…Now I don’t dare to leave my apartment any more, and my father doesn’t even bring his phone to grocery shopping, just in case we become close contacts.”
South China Morning Post claimed last week that Chinese authorities’ permission to kill animals during pandemic measures extends only to livestock.
However, state-run CCP mouthpiece Global Times reported one month prior in an article titled China Takes Cat Lives More Seriously Than Some Western Countries Treat Covid Patients that the rule extends to house pets, while using the opportunity to deliver a blisteringly pathetic diatribe boasting the supposed “Great, Glorious, and Correct” nature of the Communist Party when euthanizing cats.
“Given such a botched anti-pandemic situation, those Westerners are in no position to preach China [sic] about how to treat life,” assessed Global Times reporter Yu Meng.