Anger in China after footage shows residents in earthquake-hit Chengdu stopped from fleeing due to Covid lockdown

·2-min read

The decision of authorities to enforce strict Covid-19 lockdown measures in southwestern China’s Chengdu amid the earthquake in the region has drawn widespread backlash.

The residents reacted angrily after the security guards refused to allow them from leaving the compound during the 6.8 magnitude tremors on Monday that claimed 74 lives.

The quake struck in Sichuan province causing extensive damage to lives and properties in the Ganze Tibetan Autonomous Region along with the provincial capital of Chengdu, whose 21 million residents are under a strict Covid-19 lockdown.

The tremor centred in a mountainous area of Luding county, which sits on the edge of the Tibetan Plateau about 125 miles from Chengdu, where tectonic plates grind up against each other.

Following the quake, government officials and health workers refused to allow the resident from leaving the apartment, enraging them over the government’s zero-Covid policy.

One video posted online showed panicked residents confronting a government worker in PPE kit, as they demand to be allowed out.

Another clip in the video showed residents kicking the locked iron grilled doors in an attempt to leave the building before heading back in.

In another instance, several city pedestrians could be seen pulling the iron gates from outside, in a bid to help the trapped residents escape from the building during the quake.

Another video claiming to be an audio recording of a loudspeaker message asked the residents to “go back home”. “It’s just an earthquake. We have a lot of experience,” it said, according to BBC News.

While there are no fatalities linked to the compounds restriction, the restriction sparked widespread criticism of the government. “Which one is more important?” Lu Siwei, a lawyer in Chengdu was quoted as saying. “The lockdown or the earthquake?”

He told the outlet that his neighbour asked him to “not incite emotions” or talk politics. After several rounds of heated discussion, Mr Lu said, the man physically assaulted him.

"I guess it’s fine if I die inside the building, at least I didn’t get infected,” a user wrote on the microblogging site, Weibo.

The Chengdu heath Commission, however later posted on the official WeChat account asking that the officials to prioritise “safeguarding the lives of the public in the event of earthquakes, fires, floods and other disasters”.

In all, about 65 million Chinese residents in 33 cities, including seven provincial capitals are under varying levels of lockdown, while outbreaks have been reported in 103 cities, the highest since the early days of pandemic in 2020.