According to a recent report, the population of a lockdown Chinese city has been raising an outcry about food and medicine shortages, inciting a heated public debate over the country’s strict restrictions to control the spread of new virus cases. Residents of Tonghua, which borders with North Korea in northeastern Jilin province, have been criticizing Chinese authorities over a sudden lockdown that has left some trapped in their apartments without supplies for more than a week. On blogging platform Weibo one of the citizens wrote: “We Tonghua people weren’t knocked down by the virus, but by hunger and basic illnesses”. “Is there any way of buying insulin? There’s a diabetic in the household who hasn’t had medicine for 10 days, what happens if someone dies?” questioned another.
The city has over 2 million people, and ever since movement restrictions were put into place, citizens have been expressing their frustration about the government’s lack of urgency to address the shortage of groceries and medicines, and the rise in food prices. Authorities pledged to provide deliveries of essential goods, but have been failing to do so. One of the residents posted on Weibo: “There are 50 packs of veggies for 1,000 people. Supermarkets are open with stock but we are not allowed to buy anything. The hotline is set up but no one answers the phone. We have no option but to seek help online. We would not complain after starving for just one or two days. We didn’t have enough time to stock up after the sudden lockdown announcement.”
Moreover, in Hong Kong, over 10,000 people have been confined as police cordon off part of Yau Tsim Mong. The high-risk area houses a considerable amount of elderly and special needs residents, who have been overlooked by the government according to district councilors who have slammed the food arrangements provided by Chinese officials. As authorities carried out the emergency lockdown, the government assured workers at temporary stations would supply each resident with a light meal that included instant noodles, beverages, and fruit. But once again, the contents of the food packs did not match what was promised. “These elderly people rely heavily on social workers to deliver food and other resources, but the social workers can no longer enter the area now,” Li explained.
On the other hand, those in areas with looser restrictions and that could still afford enough essentials were seen stocking up on food staples, including large quantities of rice. But as the big Chinese Lunar New Year approaches, food prices have been remarkably surging. A recent article describes that in addition to the resurgence in viral cases, another reason why food prices have been spiking is due to a much chillier-than-usual winter. The combination of events is sending food costs up and fueling inflation as demand is soaring in face of new year festivities. Food inflation is already a reality in the eastern country. High food prices, shortages of essentials and medicines, and growing discontentment amongst the population is a known recipe for social turbulence.
Although tensions between the public and the Chinese government haven’t scaled up to threatening levels just yet, the effects resultant from the Great Famine have impaired generations and remain present on the minds of several citizens. As China struggles to contain the virus and to provide enough food for its population, the nation is likely to face more severe civil conflicts in the future. And if the government repeats the same mistakes it made in the past, the country might experience much more dangerous challenges in the months ahead.