Chinese censors removed a speech by a senior Communist Party official claiming that Beijing’s “zero Covid” policy would be maintained for “the next five years.”
Cai Qi (Beijing’s city party chief), made the misleading quote in Beijing Daily. This is the official Communist Party newspaper for China capital.
Cai announced Monday that Beijing will implement COVID-19’s pandemic control measures in the next five year and continue to uphold the zero-Covid’ policy to prevent domestic cases and imports from rebounding.
Cai is a close ally to Chinese President Xi Jinping and his “the next 5 years” comment sparked a massive backlash on Chinese social networks.
One user posted on Weibo (China’s Twitter-like platform) that “I need to rethink whether it should continue to remain in Beijing in the longer term.”
Another user commented, “For five years…what’s the point of living even?”
Beijing Daily removed the line to reduce online backlash. They described it as an “editing error”, but left his other remarks on pandemic controls intact. CNN reported that Beijing Daily did this in an effort to calm down.
Since then, Weibo has removed the hashtag “for five years” from their platform.
CNN reported that Cai discussed at length how to keep zero-Covid policies in Beijing over the next five years.
State media quotes Cai as saying that pandemic controls would be maintained. They include routine PCR tests and strict entry rules. Regular health checks will be conducted in all areas of Beijing.
In May, Xi doubled down the zero-Covid strategy at a meeting of Politburo Standing Committee (Communist Party’s top decision making body), which ordered officials and all other sectors of society adhere to the “decisions & plans” of the leadership.
The strict zero-Covid policy has put many Chinese cities, including Beijing and Shanghai, under total or partial lockdown. This has wreaked havoc on the economy and hurt the job market. CNN reported that the record-breaking 18.4 percent unemployment rate among people aged 16-24 was reached in May.
China continues its policy of closing down entire towns and cities because of just a few Covid cases. All Covid cases are quarantined and all close contacts are sent to the government.
China reported 23 Covid-19 cases that were locally transmitted on Sunday. Beijing and Shanghai both had four cases, according the National Health Commission.