Videos posted on social media have showed residents of Shanghai scuffling with hazmat-suited police who were ordering them to surrender their homes to Covid-19 patients, providing a rare glimpse into rising discontent in the megacity over China’s inflexible virus response.
Shanghai, a city of 25 million and China’s economic engine room, has become the heart of the country’s biggest outbreak since the peak of the first virus wave in Wuhan over two years ago, rattling the country’s adherence to a strict zero-Covid policy.
Residents locked down since early April have complained of food shortages and over-zealous officials forcing them into state quarantine, as authorities rush to construct tens of thousands of beds to house Covid-19 patients with daily infections topping 20,000.
Late on Thursday, videos circulated on social media showing residents outside a compound shouting at ranks of officials holding shields labelled “police”, as the officers tried to break through their line.
In one clip, police appear to make several arrests as the residents accuse them of “hitting people”.
The incident was triggered after authorities ordered 39 households to move from the compound “in order to meet the needs of epidemic prevention and control” and house virus patients in their apartments, according to Zhangjiang Group, the developer of the housing complex.
It has provided a rare window into public anger in China, a country where Communist authorities brook little dissent and censors routinely wipe information relating to protests from the internet as fast as it is uploaded.
In one live-streamed video, a woman can be heard weeping and asking “why are they taking an old person away?” as officials appeared to put someone into a car.
Zhangjiang Group said it had compensated the tenants and moved them into other units in the same compound.
In another video, which was live-streamed, a woman is heard shouting “Zhangjiang Group is trying to turn our compound into a quarantine spot, and allow Covid-positive people to live in our compound.”
The group recognised videos of the compound that had “appeared on the internet” on Thursday and said “the situation had now settled down” after “some tenants obstructed the construction” of a quarantine fence.
China’s censors quickly stepped in to scrub evidence of the clash from Chinese social media sites – as they did with several other videos that have appeared over the last few weeks – with search results for the name of the apartment complex disappearing from the Twitter-like Weibo by Friday morning.
Shanghai residents have vented their anger on social media about food shortages and heavy-handed controls, including the killing of a pet corgi by a health worker and a now-softened policy of separating infected children from their virus-free parents.
Authorities have vowed the city “would not relax in the slightest”, preparing more than 100 new quarantine facilities to receive every person who tests positive – whether or not they show symptoms.