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Chinese authorities have been tying up citizens who go out in public without a mask, parading them through the streets and forcing them to hold up signs apologizing for their mistakes.
As the Chinese government ramps up its efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus outbreak, videos posted to social media show how local police forces are implementing the directives from Beijing.
The videos, which have been shared widely on Chinese platforms like WeChat and Weibo, as well as Western platforms like Twitter, show how authorities are taking a very strict stance against anyone who goes out in public without wearing a mask.
One video, first posted on Twitter last week, shows a woman being marched through the street by police officers, her hands chained together. She was forced to admit her mistake in not wearing a mask, stand beside a sign saying “Please wear a mask,” and allow the scene to be recorded.
A number of prominent Chinese activists have been documenting the footage, including Fang Zhouzi, a popular science writer. He posted a video showing a villager being tied up by his neighbors, who forced him to wear a bra as a mask.
Another video shows a man being tied to a pillar and berated by an official for failing to wear a mask.
Another shows up to a dozen people tied together and being paraded through the streets in a bid to shame them and warn others of what will happen to them if they don’t wear a mask.
There have also been multiple videos posted showing police officers aggressively arresting citizens for not wearing masks.
In Xiaogan, a city in Hubei province, which is under severe travel restrictions, a video shows several young men forced to kneel on the street for venturing outdoors even though they are wearing masks.
While Beijing has attempted to severely restrict negative coverage of the coronavirus response, the sheer volume of content emerging from the tens of millions of people who are now living under lockdown means that at least some of it is making its way onto western platforms, where China’s censorship does not reach.
The coronavirus, which has now killed over 1,800 people and infected more than 73,000 globally, is presenting a significant challenge to President Xi Jinping’s leadership, particularly after it emerged that he was aware of the threat from the virus weeks before he first spoke publicly about the issue.
In a bid to control the narrative inside China, state-run media outlets, which initially covered the crisis with a relatively critical eye, have switched to churning out positive stories about how China’s government is winning the battle against coronavirus.
In a social media post this week, Hu Xijin, the editor-in-chief of state-run newspaper Global Times, claimed that those who posted videos of people being punished for not wearing masks “gave the public a very bad impression” and meant the “personal rights of citizens… have been severely violated.”
Cover: People wear masks in Beijing on Feb. 17, 2020, amid the spread of a new coronavirus. (Kyodo via AP Images)