the urban village in these covid times

It’s hard to know what’s happening in Shangsha, but stories are flying, people are being admonished not to spread rumors, and weibo accounts are being closed. This morning, Shangsha residents who had been locked in their buildings to prevent illegal exits and entries during quarantine were posting to Weibo, Douyin (Chinese Tik Tok), and We Chat, that their food wasn’t being delivered. They also claimed that people living in next door Xiasha were getting fat, eating five times a day (three meals, afternoon tea, and a late-night snack). The focus of ire for one building was their “nexus person (网格员)” who was responsible for food deliveries. Nexus persons are volunteers, who are navigate between administrative levels. Their job is to make sure that food and supplies delivered to a community are brought to the doors of the quarantined. However, this particular nexus person posted statements to the effect he couldn’t make deliveries because the people in charge wouldn’t let him do his job, despite tears and reminders of the people’s well-being. Then, abruptly, he posted he was quitting.

Dear residents, I truly apologize for breaking your trust and disappointing you. After so many days combating covid, I failed to defend. Upper management has chilled my heart. I gave 100% to serve everyone, only working to serve everyone. But the superiors say one thing and do something else. Community leaders want to work on behalf of residents but don’t have the ability. I’m just a small, small nexus person and have been driven to tears. Perhaps one day, when I’m no longer a nexus person, I hope that everyone will remember that a nexus person named XXX once served you.

Then this afternoon, there was a fire in Futian Village. Apparently, no one was hurt, but the image of the two residents (of an illegal extension) climbing down the sides of the building to escape the flames were particularly frightening given that quarantined buildings are locked from the outside. The presence of chains is also alarming because just yesterday in a case of caged woman was confirmed in Yulin, Shaanxi. In the official post, the Yulin Police Department described the situation as “more tragic than that of the Xuzhou chained woman (‘铁笼女’悲惨遭遇堪比江苏丰县的‘铁链女’). Clearly, the practice of turning homes into confinement cells has found general acceptance across different levels of Chinese society, whether the purpose is to maintain social or familial stability.

Today I’m thinking that if Shenzhen’s response to this surge of Covid-19 teaches us anything it’s that the vulnerable are more vulnerable than we want to believe because sometimes a house is not a house, but an instrument of control. But we knew that. It’s just today, those roosting chickens were bbq’ed.

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