Public anger over China’s strict 'Zero-Covid' policy boils over on social media

Videos of China's strict 'Zero-Covid' policy have been going viral on social media.
Videos of China's strict 'Zero-Covid' policy have been going viral on social media. © The Observers / Twitter

In many parts of the world, most Covid restrictions are gone. But in China, 'Zero-Covid' remains the strategy. There has been an uptick of anger in China at these measures since the beginning of November, with social media videos depicting the country’s stringent measures being shared daily.


China’s controversial ‘Zero-Covid’ strategy has seen millions locked down and positive citizens forcibly quarantined. Hazmat suit-clad workers spraying disinfectant have become a common sight. A video circulating online shows Chinese health officials spraying toxic chemicals to disinfect people allegedly leaving a quarantine camp on 21 November, 2022.

Those who don’t wear masks in public face serious consequences. In Hong Kong, footage on social media shows police using pepper spray on foreigners after being caught not wearing masks in the metro on 20 November, 2022. Another, published on the same day, shows a foreigner in Beijing being arrested for reportedly not wearing a mask outside.

Footage taken in the southern city of Guangzhou on 17 November, 2022 shows two women being tied up and left in the street after they reportedly picked up a takeaway meal without wearing masks. The video shows the two visibly distressed women with their hands tied at a checkpoint near the entrance to a residential compound.

On China’s Weibo social media site, one of the women later recounted the incident, according to The Daily Telegraph

My friend got a bit emotional, they put us down even though we did not have any physical confrontation. My friend’s clothes were torn apart. 

They didn’t allow us to call the police. They were violent to us before even checking our health code.

Videos and images related to the incident have since been removed from Weibo. 

Police told Chinese media they are investigating the case of the two women.

On 14 November, 2022, three days before the videos of the two women in Guangzhou were published, the city experienced violent protests as anger at strict coronavirus curbs boiled over. The demonstrations came as the city exceeded 5,000 Covid cases for the first time, driving speculation of possible lockdowns. 

Dramatic footage circulating on social media on 14 November, 2022 shows some tearing down Covid control barriers meant to confine them to their homes. 

Other footage from Guangzhou published on November 14, 2022 purports to show the use of drones to enforce lockdowns. A video published online shows a family on their roof receiving an instruction by a drone to go inside immediately.

Drones have been used to enforce coronavirus measures across China, as images online illustrate. One video of a drone being used in Hunan province was published on Twitter on 20 November, 2022.

Rigidly enforced rules can lead to deadly consequences. On 1 November, a three-year-old boy died of carbon monoxide poisoning after his father’s requests for help to an emergency hotline were refused because he lived in a zone with Covid cases. The death stirred public outrage on social media. In response, authorities in Lanzhou promised to “learn from painful lessons”.

The policy has also had devastating economic costs, sending China’s growth to lows not seen in decades. This has never been more apparent than when the world’s largest iPhone factory in Zhengzhou forced staff to lockdown at the workplace after a Covid outbreak on 30 October, 2022. Videos shared online show workers fleeing the factory after the announcement in an attempt to escape the quarantine.

However, even in the face of rising public discontent and devastating economic consequences, Chinese President Xi Jinping and his party have said they will stick with the zero-Covid approach, possibly into 2023.