Coronavirus in China | DW Documentary

for weeks now in Beijing there hasn’t been any point in getting up early the only reason to do so is to check the latest number of new infections right after waking up have you figures they’re almost 45,000 confirmed cases of the illness I came to work in China as a journalist in 2007 and got married to Lulu from Beijing we have one son and live in a housing complex in the north of the city I travel around china a lot making reports but now I’ve been grounded maniacally – better still okay cordons have been erected around cities but also around entire provinces as well as city districts and even every housing complex outside my neighborhood block uniformed men check everyone’s comings and goings the neighborhood committees are important cogs in the Communist Party’s security apparatus there to monitor residents political and social behavior now they’re functioning as health police temperature checks enforced quarantines upon leaving the city mandatory face masks Beijing’s residents have bit-by-bit disappeared from the face of the city their movements curtailed by the regime and their own fear the only report that I can make is one about standstill a quarantine diary the day’s seemed uneventful but they raised many questions about China’s future there’s one good thing about the situation now that our family is together 24/7 we’re more United than ever I’ve even persuaded my son to help me we have to catch water the tap water is undrinkable so water containers are delivered on most days but since our district was cordoned off we have to collect them ourselves my son is lucky because the barricade isn’t very high since the outbreak of the virus Lulu and I have been wearing his and hers fashion accessories face masks mine black hers white Lulu is unhappy she can no longer wear lipstick but since the quarantine started the wearing of face masks has been strongly advised basically if you leave the apartment without one you’ll be stopped the remaining entry point to our district has become a checkpoint you need a special pass to get in and out and it’s checked every time permission can be refused at any time you might think it’s 5 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon but in fact it’s Friday afternoon normally people would be going shopping now and Beijing would look like this it’s nice to have a bit more space but we’re feeling a bit lonely and what makes things worse is getting our temperature measured every 300 meters but is it really such a good idea to be pressing these devices onto dozens of different people’s wrists the mall is almost empty too usually we have to wait half an hour to get a coffee but people don’t feel like going out at least there are a few young guys playing basketball bringing a bit of life to the place but I’m surprised they aren’t wearing masks at the moment they’re still disinfectant to clean our hands but for how much longer at the supermarket entrance another

checkpoint at least there’s a bit more life here since being in quarantine cooking has become our main activity the sight of these supermarket shelves is almost comforting but only almost we’ve all seen the images of empty shelves in the city of Wuhan on social media the situation at the epicenter of the outbreak where thousands are sick is ever-present it’s feeding a sense of collective anxiety that’s even though our situation is nothing like the one in Wuhan in Beijing there are only a hundred official coronavirus cases the capital is hermetically sealed off nonetheless in the subway I’m meeting miss Lee my interpreter before I even say hello I already know her skin temperature thirty two point one degrees Celsius all subway entrances are now fitted with infrared cameras if your temperature tops 37.3 degrees you’re isolated behind a barricade and sent to the hospital and of course there’s also someone checking for face masks in the subway not that there’s much to check normally the trains look like this the real problem is the shortage of masks together with ms lee i’m going to investigate the problem no we’re closed try there here it says mosques sold out hello do you still have mosques only electric ones can I look he only has a mask for 40 euros which of course he offers us straight off when it definitely got against the virus which virus do you mean the corona virus of course you have to change all the standard masks every two days to be on the safe side every two days yes to ensure that you’re protected against a virus that isn’t necessary with this electrical mask it can be used for two months no problem two months what about the standard masks like yours could I have one like that no I don’t have anymore you’re too late they’re sold out for today should I try again tomorrow yes that’s normally how it works but get here early because we only get a limited number of masks everyone in the district knows that so they arrive early we’re prepared to wait in line everything linked to this outbreak is controlled by the government it’s rationing the amount of masks that we’re allowed to sell could you stop filming please it’d be better if you didn’t film this okay I go to Tiananmen Square to see what it looks like in the heart of the city the pavements are cordoned off you can only get around the square by bike on its north side is the Forbidden City everywhere there are police officers guarding the entrance to this huge palace complex turned museum it has never been more forbidden than now just a few metres away zhang nan hai the seed of the State Council and the Communist Party headquarters the country’s top leadership both lives and works behind this gate cordoned off because of fear of the virus it’s impossible to stop here I’m familiar now with the situation in my district and in the city center but what about the working class districts on the outskirts of Beijing are they under the same quarantine the companies are housing their workers in small single wound dormitories in a model proletariat no one would dare contradict the party mr. Chen is a chauffeur I’ve hired him for a day to show me his district anyone who wants to enter has to get registered I’ll go out and arrange it with them no one is allowed

into the quarter without a pass we try it using mr. Chen’s this is my pass for the quarter we aren’t the only ones waiting everyone’s being checked by the neighborhood committee’s the Communist Party’s security apparatus is omnipresent in the fight against the virus the committee’s are the party’s local arm it’s their job to enforce the quarantines in the affected districts they issue the permits and inform authorities about anyone who is running a temperature or not wearing a mask the neighborhood committees have grown since the beginning of the crisis these people call themselves volunteers United in the battle against the virus but whether they’ve got an armband or not they are in fact paid by the city authorities to ensure people stick by the rules the checks are strict and you can only leave the area for restricted hours to our surprise they allow us to proceed when the gates are closed you can’t get in no matter what recently I had to sleep in the car the streets and alleyways are empty here too it’s not easy to find someone to interview this man is the only one he’s venturing outside for the first time in two days I’ve got potatoes noodles garlic tofu and vegetables when I went shopping I needed to buy more than usual because there are three of us and I’m the only one who leaves the apartment every two or three days so goodbye back home there’s a surprise waiting for me this is the first time I’ve seen an ambulance outside the entrance of our apartment block and yet no suspected cases have been reported for our reassurance we can see practically in real time whether or not there are sick people in our building there are several apps that localize people who have the virus this blue dot is me this is our building around it the yellow buildings are ones where sick people are recorded as living the darker the color the more recent the case every red dot is a coronavirus case no one slips through the net in a society where everyone is tracked by shopping going about their daily business or via facial recognition I click here on the ill person to see where they have been to a fruit dealer and a bistro there two or three kilometers away we are here and we’re definitely not going to walk three kilometers to buy an apple so it’s fine Voeckler develop model du cinéma technique on these new technologies make everyday life a lot easier but they also create fear the apps show most of the sick as being in the center of Beijing the main shopping drag wangfujing is dead usually Beijing’s equivalent of the Zhang’s Alizee is thronging with people out shopping or window shopping but today there are public health videos rather than ads playing on the electronic billboards the food market in the middle of the street where you used to be able to buy insect larvae and scorpions is closed there’s a sign saying it’s going to be renovated but it doesn’t say when these are agonizingly long days for store and restaurant owners miss.jeong is in charge of the only open cafe around here today I’m her only customer when the epidemic first broke out we had to find a way of coping we assumed the whole thing would probably go on for the first half of the year I have a lot of friends in the restaurant trade and we’re all in the same situation we’re under a lot of pressure if our estimates are correct we don’t know when business is going to pick up again and we’re keeping a very close eye on developments when things improve we’ll hear about it on the news we keep calculating when we might have more guests again based on the latest

infection figures for change regime coming up the city is sleeping but we’re going stir-crazy at home so we decide to go out it’ll do us good because we can’t be visited by anyone from outside and everything is closed we pay a visit to our neighbor Gary up to now we had only met on the parking lot the second-hand car dealer lives here with his wife and cat for more than a month now he has been sitting at home and twiddling his thumbs like all of us since the start of the quarantine he hasn’t missed any of the news broadcasts on CCTV Chinese state television in 2003 at the time of the SARS epidemic I was in my third year at the University I think people were less worried back then well people are far more worried than there were about SARS people are saying that the mood is different because of we jac fear is spreading echoes were communicating with one another more due to social media at the time of SARS these platforms didn’t exist in 2003 the authorities in Beijing committed grave mistakes they hushed things up and that created big problems but I believe they have made progress and they’ve got the situation pretty much under control now maybe they tried to cover things up at first I don’t know 20 there are examples based on the information he hears from the government gary prefers to stay at home every evening state TV shows images of the crisis pictures of hospitals patients and above all the military and medics working together in perfect coordination and on the ground shots from cities where the state apparatus is naturally shown is intervening swiftly and efficiently even cleaning the street with mops the premiere sets a good example the message everything is under control as every day goes by more people disappear from Beijing’s streets normally there’s an almost constant flow of cars and consumers along this road today nothing just silence this banner reads we are all United and thanks to this trust and a scientific strategy of state leadership this epidemic will be vanquished the regime is obsessed by the concern that fear about the virus could spark social unrest or criticism of the leaders the party seems more worried about that than about the corona virus itself people spreading information on social media can expect sanctions bloggers found bing was arrested at home by the police who’s there the police the police yes open up why are there so many of you stop taking photos why are you here we’re here because of you where are you taking me what do you want from me come on open the door first I want to know where you’re taking me finally the police broke the door down Phan Bing hasn’t been seen since the blogger had been filming since the start of the crisis in Wuhan and posting his videos on social media he ventured into hospitals showed overflowing waiting rooms dying patients and doctors and nurses at breaking point unsanitized images hundreds of thousands of Chinese people had been following him online and watching how he openly denounced government inefficiency it’s your punishment and pay for your deeds all anti-communist forces must unite even if you arrest me I am not afraid an unbearable affront to the regime but this type of video managed to spread through social media before the government was able to intervene so too did videos filmed by Chen Shushi in Wuhan hospitals he showed sick people not being treated desperate people who are not being attended to despite having had a fever for days hello this is jenshaw chief it’s 11 a.m on January the 30th this was his last

video before he was quarantined I’m frightened I have the virus before my eyes and state security breathing down my neck but I’m not gonna let that get me down I’ll carry on reporting in this city as long as I live and I’ll show what I see and hear go to hell does the communist regime think that I’m afraid over the last few days I’ve noticed a few posts on WeChat and Dube on the Chinese equivalent of Facebook and Twitter that also challenged the official line they were written by a blogger couple in Beijing accompanied by an interpreter I visit them in their small city centre apartment we haven’t been outside for days and we’re just killing time since the start of the crisis there has been a rise in the number of citizen journalists in China trying to disseminate information to supplement the official version of events a tentative breath of freedom with limited means the two blockers wanted to spark a mini revolution after dr. Li wen Liang died the doctor from Wuhan was the first to try to warn the public about the new disease he was arrested but died after contracting the illness and became a symbol for this absurd system that silences people to maintain the regime’s stability when dr Lee died people were sad and angry I wanted to honor him by getting as many people as possible to use a drawing of his face as their profile picture in social media or to send posts with messages like it’s no crime to express your opinion or have a safe journey to paradise a kind of online demonstration three minutes after I had posted my call to action thousands of users had changed their profile picture and shared my post the internet police got wind of it and sent me a warning the content you posted will be deleted as it could lead to unrest if you refuse to cooperate your account will be permanently deleted in China everything functions via social media payment systems communication smart ticketing for public transport if you don’t have an account you’re down and out at first chi-chan and Sun lien life week reported very actively on the situation then state television sent 300 reporters to Wuhan with the aim of steering public opinion and quashing other reports the regime now rules with a hard hand the media has also been placed in quarantine China citizens are not just effectively incarcerated at home they only have access to information permitted by the regime the two bloggers are suffering the consequences too just so here we are no internet our apps are no longer online the software tools that they use to dodge the censors and gain access to banned web sites such as Twitter have also been blocked week two of our quarantine the barricades at the entrances of our housing complex have now been reinforced with 2 meter high green wire fencing though it’s not as if anyone could have gotten through the cordon as it was every day is like the next a never-ending stream of suppliers provides us with the essentials but collecting the water containers is getting more and more difficult we feel a little more locked in with every day that passes loulou wings her cousin to find out how her daughter is doing the seven-year-old hasn’t left the family apartment for several weeks now better she’s just getting dressed her school is closed of course remote learning is the order of the day with classes tell your aunt I sit down at the table and switch on the television I learned my lessons there and when I’m finished the teacher gives me my homework now do you speak to one another via Skype like we are now no it

was like that at first the teacher could see us but now it’s all on television and the teacher can’t see us anymore Lulu’s cousin shows us what daily life is like for her daughter Tong Tong is an only child her daily routine under quarantine is carefully planned she gets up at 8 a.m. then it’s time for breakfast the rest of the morning is devoted to learning and the day starts with an exercise class just like at school two days ago we started having to pass through this large military tent the monitoring system has become more tightly organized the color of the past has now changed to reflect the number of sick people in the vicinity ours are pistachio green no idea what that means we film secretly using our mobile phones cameras are not welcome in the monitoring zones outside it’s worse than ever the streets are almost empty the only people we meet are either wearing a red armband or are there to take our temperature we also empty the basketball players have disappeared – the court is now closed until further notice can I have my pass on our way back through the tent we get stopped again how long have you had this past come on sorry did you leave Beijing no no you’re going to get new passes will make you two new ones these are too old why are we getting new ones because they’re better they’re valid longer okay we only have two passes for three family members and now they’re white is that a good or a bad sign I have no idea but we don’t complain others have only got one pass and are only allowed to leave their homes every two or three days week four of the quarantine the barricades now too high to pass over any water containers