“Zero COVID” policy: “it will escalate”, worry Quebecers living in China

“Zero COVID” Policy: “çit will escalate,” ;tent of Quebecers living in China

MISE & Agrave; DAY

Quebecers living in China are dumbfounded by the multiplication of demonstrations in the country, fearing in some cases the mess that a popular uprising could cause.

“J I feel like it's going to get worse. People are fed up”, loose on the phone Dominic Desmarais, who has lived in China with his family for seven years, in the city of Suzhou, neighboring Shanghai. 

Last weekend, hundreds of people demonstrated in several cities to protest against the abusive confinements of the Chinese authorities who have applied a very restrictive “zero COVID” policy for three years. Since then, the police presence in the streets has prevented any new gatherings.

Politique «zéro COVID”: “çit will escalate”, worry Quebecers living in China

Photo courtesy, Dominic Desmarais Dominic Desmarais

Mr. Desmarais was able to view footage of these protests via Telegram, since state media does not report on these government-banned uprisings.

“I wish there was not too much trouble, he hopes. China really has to be stable because if it's not stable, it's really going to be a mess.”

Witnesses to the frustration

< p>Quebecers living in the Middle Kingdom interviewed by The Journal perceive in their entourage a questioning of the health policies of the Chinese government. They are also among the few expatriates still living in China, since these same policies have caused a massive exodus of foreigners in recent years.

“I think there is a really acute disgust here, notes Maxime Faucher, who is a physical education teacher in a school for expatriates in Suzhou. The Chinese really need to feel comfortable talking to you about it and some have told me about it.”

Maxime Faucher strikes a pose in Shanghai.

This uproar is explained by the incomprehension of many Chinese of the relevance of certain health policies, explains Pierre Morin, who works for the Chinese division of the Quebec company SiliCycle.

“When we leave Shanghai and come back, there is a rule that prohibits us from going to public places of entertainment for five days. On the other hand, we have the right to go to the office towers”, he explains.

“The Chinese people say 'why don't you allow me to go to this place, then that in this other place, there is no problem?”, he adds.

“It's starting to germinate”  

Despite insisting that he doesn't mind the measures, Dominic Desmarais notes that the Chinese are becoming increasingly hostile towards the authorities, even though any form of opposition to the government is prohibited.

< p>“The Chinese are starting to stubbornly oppose the people responsible for controlling the virus and refuse to follow the instructions, to be quarantined.”

According to him, the demonstrations could gain momentum magnitude. 

“The idea that it is possible [to manifest] is starting to sprout,” he observes.

“For the first time, I see people sharing things against the government in their WeChat story,” adds Maxime Faucher.

However, Mr. Faucher does not see the measures being relaxed and even less lifted in the coming months.

“It is such an emblematic policy of President Xi Jinping. I'm really curious to see what will happen.”

“That should worry the regime”

For Guy Saint-Jacques, Canada's former ambassador to China, the Chinese apparatus of repression, where more money is invested than in the army, is so powerful that it would be surprising if the popular movement gained momentum. magnitude.

“I think the regime will use all its forces to prevent people from organizing demonstrations. It is clear that they will identify the people with the means they have and who will arrest them.”

According to him, the Xi Jinping regime must however do some soul-searching in the face of the message sent by these historical manifestations.

“That people have demonstrated like this without covering their faces, it expresses an extraordinary fed up. That's what should worry the regime.”

Photos provided by Dominic Desmarais and Maxime Faucher

Soccer, a window on normal life

The popularity of the soccer World Cup in China may have ignited protests against health policies in the country due to widely circulated images of crowds without masks.

“It affected the perception of the population here. If the virus is dangerous, how come people don't wear masks, fill stadiums and everyone looks happy?” says Dominic Desmarais, a Quebecer living in China.

According to him, the sporting event contributed to the discontent behind the demonstrations which multiplied last weekend in China.

“People said to me: 'we went to see the matches in bars and nobody has a mask in Qatar,'' says Maxime Faucher.

The authorities have even undertaken to censor the matches of the Cup in an attempt to temper the discontent, by preventing the broadcasting of the shots showing the supporters gathered in the stands.

Everyone except them

According to Guy Saint-Jacques, former Canadian ambassador to China, the World Cup has certainly contributed to the population's disillusionment with health measures.

< p>“They now realize that the rest of the world is getting back to normal life. More broadly, people in China realize that [those kinds of measures] are no longer appropriate with the variants.”

The Chinese team's disappointing performance at the World Cup could also fueling frustration, according to Faucher.

China was knocked out of the tournament's qualifiers after an embarrassing 3-1 loss to Vietnam, despite considerable efforts by the state to improve the national team.

“Soccer fans on Chinese social media were furious at the last whistle,” the South Morning China Post reported at the time. p>

“A lot of people said it was because the players hadn't been able to train enough because of the really restrictive measures”, explains Mr. Faucher.

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