wtf shatou?

Shenzhen’s citywide lockdown has come to an end. Kind of. Last night, there were countdowns to midnight, firecrackers set off at village gates, and then people charging out. I’m not sure where they were going at midnight, in a city that was still primarily closed. But there were thousands celebrating in the streets outside their gates. The expression for this rush is ‘冲鸭,’ which literally translates as ‘charging ducks,’ but translates as ‘go for it.’ In fact, it has been a week of poultry metaphors, as a new phrase on the web is 叮咚鸡 (dingdong ji), which is a pun for the expression ‘wait for further notification’ that ended ever. single. covid announcement. I’m not sure where the expression came from (I’ve seen debates that the original is Cantonese, but no confirmations), however, chickens are running rampant through Shenzhen memes.

There are still locked down and control areas in Shenzhen, but public transportation is up and running and the emphasis is on normalizing production. Indeed, along with videos celebrating the end of lockdown, one screenshot in particular went viral. Set against a black background, the white characters (seem to) lay out the economic costs of zero-Covid: Shenzhen stopped for a week at a loss of more than 600 yi ($US 9.43 billion) to find 643 (Third Hospital statistics: asymptomatic carriers 21%, light symptoms 72%, regular cases 7%, serious cases 0%, deaths 0) positives, with an average cost per case of 1 yi ($US 15.72 million).

Shatou, however, remains under lockdown. The public shaming of the area has continued, as exemplified by this meme, which highlights the locked down area, south of Binhai Expressway between Hongling and Huaqiang East Roads. The caption reads: The entire city is giving everything it has to clean its ‘bikini underwear.’

The scatological humor is in keeping with the common phrase ‘to wipe someone’s ass 擦某某的屁股,’ graphically describing what it feels like to clean up someone else’s mess–too intimate, too embarrassing and too fucking contagious (so to speak). So yes, the shaming includes a great deal of anger and humiliation by association. This ‘dirty laundry’ rhetoric is also of a piece with videos that have been leaked from door-to-door sweeps of apartments where people had holed up, refusing to participate in mandatory corona testing. During the lockdown, police and community-level cadres dressed in hazmat suits enter into apartments to force residents to go to a testing station. In the videos that I’ve seen, the non-compliant are overwhelmingly male and dressed only in their underwear. The person filming usually takes time to emphasize the mess of an apartment (sometimes filled with trash) and the indignities of being half-naked during a police visit.

Today, I’m thinking that its time to pay attention to how Shatou’s non-compliance, the subdistrict’s implied harboring of Covid refugees from Hong Kong, the political dismissal of eight Futian police officers and health workers (article in Mandarin), and lingering memories of Shatou’s role in the cross-border sex trade are being re-written in the context of the Lok Ma Chao Loop, which is located directly south of Shatou. Indeed, construction of the Lok Ma Chau has proceeded despite the lockdown, and now Shatou occupies a critical section of Shenzhen’s central axis, which symbolically links the two cities. I know the failures to manage Shatou were not intentional, but today I’m thinking: Damn, those failures sure are convenient for formal expansion into and appropriation of Futian’s urban villages.

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