China censors article, censures think tank for arguing against zero-Covid policy

Published on Aug 30, 2022 10:34 AM IST

Beijing has continued to enforce its zero-Covid policy with snap lockdowns, mass tests, contact tracing and hard quarantine for the infected and their contacts to tackle the mostly Omicron-driven clusters

A worker wearing a protective suit swabs a woman’s throat for a Covid-19 test at a coronavirus testing site in Beijing, China on Friday. (AP)
A worker wearing a protective suit swabs a woman’s throat for a Covid-19 test at a coronavirus testing site in Beijing, China on Friday. (AP)

BEIJING: China has swiftly censored a Beijing-based research centre’s report disagreeing with the government’s zero-Covid strategy after it argued that the virus containment policies are disrupting trade and industry and stalling the Chinese economy.

Beijing has continued to enforce its zero-Covid policy with snap lockdowns, mass tests, contact tracing and hard quarantine for the infected and their contacts to tackle the mostly Omicron-driven clusters, which have continued to break out across China despite strict containment strategies.

Covid-19 infection and death numbers have remained low in China compared to other countries but the policies have severely impacted the economy.

Experts say that China’s response is increasingly disproportionate - shutting down a neighbourhood if there’s a single case and continuous mass testing in cities like Beijing, for example - given the rest of the world is learning to coexist with the virus.

Anbound Research Centre, a Beijing-based think-tank, argued against these policies in a report published on its social media handles on Sunday.

In the report titled, “It’s Time for China to Adjust Its Virus Control and Prevention Policies”, the organisation’s macro-economic research head, He Jun, said the current policies are stalling the Chinese economy while post-pandemic economies elsewhere are recovering faster.

“The Anbound Research Center gave no details of possible changes but said President Xi Jinping’s government needs to focus on shoring up sinking growth. It noted the United States, Europe and Japan are recovering economically after easing anti-disease curbs,” the Associated Press said in a report.

The AP report added, quoting the Anbound article that the economic impact of repeated shutdowns of companies and neighbourhoods is more severe than last year.

The report from Anbound, which calls itself an independent think tank focussed on public policy, said that the freezing effect might be even worse than when the outbreak began in 2020 and the whole economy shut down temporarily.

China’s economy is at risk of stalling due to the impact of epidemic prevention and control policies, the article said.

The article was published on Sunday but was removed from every social media handle in less than 24 hours.

The Anbound staff declined to share the original report, telling HT they have been “forbidden” from sharing it.

At least one of the centre’s social media handles had been shut down because of the article, HT learnt. “The piece no longer exists on the Chinese internet,” a staffer told HT.

The censorship of the research report indicates that not only will the Communist Party of China (CPC) continue with the zero-Covid policy - occasionally tweaking rules to show it is ready to adapt to the changing Covid-19 situation - but will also not brook any domestic opposition to the policies.

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  • ABOUT THE AUTHOR

    Sutirtho Patranobis has been in Beijing since 2012, as Hindustan Times’ China correspondent. He was previously posted in Colombo, Sri Lanka, where he covered the final phase of the civil war and its aftermath. Patranobis covered several beats including health and national politics in Delhi before being posted abroad.

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