While the worst of the coronavirus pandemic may be over in China, sporadic outbreaks have occurred in recent weeks. Fengtai District, directly to the north of Daxing and Xihongmen, was put on “wartime” alert on June 13 after a cluster of COVID-19 cases were detected at the Xinfadi market – Beijing’s largest wholesale market – which is just a 10-minute walk from Xihongmen.
Forty-five people were confirmed to have the coronavirus after 517 tests were administered. Not long afterward five new COVID-19 cases were discovered in Daxing, prompting Xihongmen to increase its coronavirus risk level to high following the discovery.
The Chinese Communist Party has used the recent outbreaks of the coronavirus as an opportunity to pass a series of directives to help them monitor the movements of every resident of Xihongmen. These came into effect July 9, when the party’s commission in the town changes its entry pass. (Related: “Return to China or commit suicide:” FBI Director says China’s “Fox Hunt” program a way to silence and imprison Chinese dissidents abroad.)
“Xihongmen town ... has changed its entry pass,” stated a letter from the commission that was widely circulated on Chinese social media. “Everybody has to use the new entry pass to enter and leave the village … Anyone who does not apply for the pass will be treated as giving up his and her right to live in our village.”
All of the town’s approximately 140,000 residents had to apply for the new pass between Friday, July 10, and Monday, July 13. It costs 30 yuan ($4.29), and if a villager loses it they will have to pay for another for 100 yuan ($14.30).
“Anyone who passes the checkpoint without the new pass is violating the law, and will be held liable,” concluded the announcement.
Authorities justified the new pass, saying that it’s necessary due to Xihongmen’s high threat level for the coronavirus. However, this raises the question of why health authorities downgraded Xihongmen’s threat level to medium. Furthermore, the new passes do not contain any information that would be helpful for contact tracers and other health workers should any of the residents test positive for COVID-19.
Footage taken from Xihongmen showed large groups of the town’s residents, including women and elderly people, gathering at one of the checkpoints into the town to protest against the new entry pass.
In one video shared on social media, the restless villagers are seen surrounding the checkpoint. In another, several of the more vocal members of the crowd start asking the local authorities to come out of their office. One person could be heard shouting “The ones that beat people, come out.”
In a third clip from the same source, one man is recording the crowd while saying “30 yuan exit fee. If you don’t pay, they will beat you. Won’t you say the police are tough?”
More police officers eventually arrived to try and hold back the restless residents. The villagers, however, used this opportunity to repeat their demand that, rather than purchasing new entry passes, they be allowed to use the passes that they bought in June.
Eventually, a group of younger villagers attempted to pass the checkpoint without procuring the new entry passes, they were stopped by the police. This led to an altercation as police tried to beat back the residents from being allowed to leave the town.
According to the New Tang Dynasty Television, a Chinese-language broadcaster based in New York, one resident was arrested after the altercations with the police.
Furthermore, the station received word from an anonymous local official telling them that they had to pay for the new fines because “it was the community’s regulation.”
“The charging of 30 yuan comprehensive service fee for the entry-and-exit certificate this time was required by the village. Everyone who lives there must abide by the rules.”
Several Xihongmen residents told Radio France International (RFI) that even people who tested positive for the coronavirus could receive an entry pass so long as they bribed local officials.
RFI further stated that the clashes in Xihongmen represent a series of escalating social conflicts in Beijing due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Learn more about how the coronavirus in once again spreading in China by following Pandemic.news.