An Auckland couple on working visas were recently ordered to return to China. They appealed on the basis of Human Rights Watch saying China’s lockdown “significantly impeded people’s access to healthcare, food, and other life necessities”, but their appeal was denied. The Immigration and Protection Tribunal said it “does not consider that such hardship would amount to exceptional circumstances of a humanitarian nature.” Several hundred people from the Chinese community in Auckland held a vigil calling for an end to China’s Zero-COVID policy.
There are over 100 million Chinese in lockdown, with strictness varying by city. Entire apartment buildings are locked down, with residents confined to individual apartments with limited access to food and healthcare. Quarantine camps continue to be built around the country, where people pay for their stay locked in single room prefabs.
Cities use an electronic vaccine pass system, for all people including toddlers, where a negative rapid antigen test results in a pass that stays green for 2 to 3 days. After that the pass changes to yellow and the holder is barred entry from public places including shopping malls, hotels, government buildings, and public transport. A positive test makes the pass turn red and the holder must be quarantined immediately.
Red pass holders are sometimes not allowed back into their apartment buildings, causing many to be forced to live in tents on the street if they are not taken to a camp. If a red pass is scanned anywhere, an alarm sounds and anyone nearby who stays in proximity for more than 10 minutes may also have their pass turned red – causing panicked people to flee the area, and to exit the building in case it is quarantined with everyone trapped inside.
Many Western commentators say there’s potential for the protests, which are not only about COVID, to grow to the size of those that culminated in the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. But the COVID pass system is perfectly positioned to be used against protestors.
COVID regulations in New Zealand were also used as justification for why major anti-mandate protests in Wellington should not be allowed. The vast majority of arrested protesters were released without charges.