Chinese watchers were quick to delete what appeared to be a misleading quote from a senior Communist Party official published in state media on Monday, which claimed that “zero covidIt will remain the policy in place in Beijing ‘for the next five years’ in an attempt to tame the backlash online.
The Beijing Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of the Chinese capital, earlier reported that the city’s party chief, Cai Zhi, said on Monday that “over the next five years, Beijing will resolutely implement the Covid-19 epidemic control measures and uphold the principle of ‘zero- Covid policy to prevent imported cases from coming in and domestic issues from rebounding.
Tsai, a close ally of Chinese President Xi Jinping,’s reference to the “next five years” sparked a massive backlash on Chinese social media. In response, the Beijing Daily removed the line, calling it an “editing error” while leaving his other remarks about epidemic controls intact.
CNN reviewed the entire speech, and while the published quote from the Beijing Daily was misleading, Tsai discussed at length the possibility of maintaining non-Covid-19 policies in the capital over the next five-year period.
The epidemic controls that will remain in place include routine PCR tests, strict entry rules, regular health checks in residential neighborhoods and public places, as well as strict monitoring and testing of people entering and leaving Beijing, state media quoted Cai as saying.
“I should reconsider whether I should continue to stay in Beijing in the long term,” one user wrote on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform.
Another user said “over the next five years…what’s the point of even surviving”.
Since then, Weibo has banned the hashtag “for the next five years” from its platform.
In early May, Xi doubled down on the zero-Covid policy at a meeting of the Standing Committee of the Politburo, the country’s top decision-making body, ordering officials and all sectors of society to abide by the “decisions and plans” of the leadership.
US Ambassador to China Nicholas Burns said at a Brookings Institution online event on June 16 that he expected China to maintain its non-proliferation policy until the “early months of 2023,” based on indications from the Chinese government.
For months, cities across China – including Beijing and Shanghai – have been placed under full or partial lockdown due to a strict zero-Covid policy, wreaking havoc on economic activity and hurting the labor market. In May, the unemployment rate for people aged 16 to 24 reached a record high of 18.4%.
China continues to lock down entire communities and cities in a small number of Covid cases. All positive cases and close contacts are sent to government quarantine.
China reported 23 local cases of Covid-19 nationwide on Sunday, and Beijing and Shanghai each recorded four, according to the country’s National Health Commission.
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