Chinese authorities vow to crack down on Covid price gougers and hoarders as fear of Beijing lockdown grows

·3-min read

The Chinese authorities have vowed to crack down on practices such as price gouging or hoarding during the pandemic.

A statement published on the Ministry of Public Security’s website on Wednesday said anyone who took advantage of crises like the Covid-19 outbreak to make money would be dealt with strictly.

China’s anti-pandemic focus expanded from Shanghai to Beijing, where 31 symptomatic cases and three asymptomatic infections were reported on Wednesday.

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The capital has recorded 138 cases since last Friday. The municipal government announced on Monday that it would expand Covid-19 mass testing from one district to another 11 districts by Saturday.

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In total, 20 million of the city’s 22 million population will be tested three times this week.

A recent announcement of mass testing in Chaoyang district, where most of the cases were reported, prompted residents to rush to stock up on food and daily necessities in case of a wider lockdown.

On Monday the municipal commerce bureau ordered supermarkets and online shopping platforms to triple their usual inventories and extend their working hours to meet soaring demand.

The prolonged lockdown across much of Shanghai has prompted complaints from residents that they were running out of food and that online delivery platforms were unable to meet demand.

The public security ministry said it would strike hard against illegal practices such as interfering with epidemic prevention and controls or disrupting the market and social order.

It added that the authorities should offer help to people who are in a difficult or dangerous situation.

The municipal police department in Shanghai issued a similar notice on April 15, in which it said profiteers should be dealt with in accordance with the law, and if the violation constitutes a crime, they would be investigated by the police.

The Shanghai police told the state news agency Xinhua that at least one person was taken into custody on suspicion of illegal business operations.

The person, surnamed Gao, rented someone else’s business licence to set up an online platform, which was used to sell vegetables, eggs, chicken and other foodstuffs and sold them at inflated prices, making a profit of 1.5 million yuan (US$230,000).

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Gao sold the food for more than 1.75 million yuan and made an illegal profit of over 1.5 million yuan, it said.

Shanghai’s market supervision bureau said in March that it had issued about 20,000 warning letters against price-gouging and violators could be fined up to three million yuan.

For serious cases, the bureau can suspend or even revoke their licences, according to a report from state broadcaster CCTV.

Shanghai recorded its lowest daily number of new Covid-19 cases in more than three weeks on Wednesday, when 13,562 new cases and 48 deaths were recorded.

Shanghai currently accounts for more than 95 per cent of the cases nationwide. It has recorded 534,000 infections since the outbreak began on March 1 and the total death toll stood at 228.

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