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Workers in Hazmat Suits Seen Beating Shanghai Residents to Enforce ‘Zero-COVID’ Regulations

A native of New York, Alina has a Bachelors degree in Corporate Communications from Baruch College and writes about human rights' related issues, politics, tech and society.
Published: April 6, 2022
Pandemic staff seen wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) as they transfer daily food supplies and necessities for local residents during the COVID-19 lockdown in Shanghai on April 5, 2022. (Image: STR/AFP via Getty Images)

As China imposes the strictest stay-at-home orders since the start of the pandemic, more accounts of tragedy and violence have emerged as authorities stick to relentlessly upholding the country’s “Zero-COVID” strategy. 

Videos on social media showing pandemic prevention staff wearing white hazmat suits resorting to violence have been spread online. A video showing eight workers beating up a young man outside the Lianyang community compound in Shanghai’s Songjiang district was widely circulated online. 

On April 5, a reporter with the Chinese edition of The Epoch Times called the police station in Songjiang to inquire about the situation. A police officer there replied that “the pandemic prevention [in Shanghai] is the city’s top priority at the moment, nothing else matters.” 

When the reporter inquired further as to the reason why the civilian was being assaulted, the police officer replied nonchalantly that he could not respond to his question due to “privacy concerns” and told the reporter to contact the city’s public security bureau instead. 

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Another incident occurred in the city’s town of Chedun, where pandemic staff were again seen violently beating and kicking a person while he layed immobilized on the ground.  

After a Sina blogger reposted the video on social media, he received a call from the Songjiang District Public Security Bureau on April 5 asking him to remove the post. In the recording of their conversation, the police officer admitted to the incident and said the “staff members wearing white” were not police officers, and asked the blogger not to further complicate the issue.

Once the blogger posted the conversation online, many netizens erupted with anger. One user said, “I remember in China, ruthlessly beating an ordinary person in public only took place during the Cultural Revolution. The reason for beating people up back then was called a ‘class struggle,’ but what is the reason for that now?”

Another Shanghai resident surnamed Chen, replied to the blogger’s post and said he had witnessed some of the incidents that took place. Chen said that within Songjiang District alone, there were several instances where pandemic workers could be seen deploying violence on the residents. 

Chen said, “We call people in the [white hazmat suits] the ‘big white’,” and explained that there were confusing explanations as to the identities of staff members behind those uniforms. “Some of the people who wear the white suits are cops, while others are just ordinary volunteers.” 

Chen speculated that the staff members in the video were probably part of the COVID task force sent to the city, or part of the army. “You can tell easily from his actions that he has been professionally trained because he could tackle a person to the ground so neatly and easily.”

Defeating ‘the people’s war against the virus’

State Council Vice Premier Sun Chunlan visited Shanghai on April 4 after military jets were seen landing in Shanghai’s Hongqiao Airport the day before in order to assist in the mandatory screening of the city’s 26 million residents. 

According to the Shanghai Municipal Health Commission, Sun inspected nucleic acid testing sites and visited locked down communities and quarantine facilities. Sun reportedly emphasized the implementation of “COVID testing for all people in the city,” and the importance of deploying resources from multiple provinces and cities across the country to assist Shanghai in defeating the “people’s war against the virus.”

In addition to sending over 30,000 medical personnel to the city, a large number of special armed police forces were also deployed in order to “maintain social order in Shanghai.” Some task forces have already been stationed in Shanghai since March 28. 

Zhang Yahong, deputy secretary and director of Shanghai’s Public Security Bureau, said at a press conference on April 4 that since the new outbreak started, all 50,000 police officers in Shanghai have been transferred to assist in the “prevention and control of the pandemic and to maintain social order.”