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Maskless Qatar World Cup Outrages Locked-Down Chinese

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China’s exhausted and terrorized population was outraged by images of massive crowds cavorting maskless at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar this week.

Social media users wondered why they must continue living under dungeon conditions while the rest of the world has moved on from the Wuhan coronavirus.

Some Chinese citizens professed shock at getting a peek beyond China’s censorship walls and seeing just how free the rest of the world has become, while more than a quarter of China’s immense population is still suffering through coronavirus lockdowns. China reported both record-high coronavirus infections and record-high numbers of people under coronavirus restrictions this week.

“China is seeing a record level of lockdowns. It’s even a bit worse than during the Shanghai lockdown because so many cities are partially locked down,” Ting Lu, chief China economist at the Nomura financial services firm, told the Financial Times on Wednesday.

China fared poorly in regional championships this year and did not reach the World Cup in Qatar, in no small part because coronavirus lockdowns interfered with training and play for Chinese teams. The regime in Beijing still boasts of China’s enduring love for soccer, and state television is broadcasting World Cup games to the masses. 

As AFP pointed out on Wednesday, that would be the same state television that has been bombarding its captive viewers with reports that the rest of the world, and particularly the United States, is mired in “mass deaths and chaos” caused by Chinese coronavirus because China’s draconian policies are the only way to manage the disease.

“Worn out by harsh [Chinese coronavirus] restrictions, Chinese are questioning their government’s approach while the rest of the world lives alongside the virus,” AFP reported.

“Some people are watching World Cup matches in person with no masks, some have been locked at home for a month, locked on campus for two months without even being able to step out the door. Who has stolen my life? I won’t say,” moaned one user on Weibo, China’s heavily-policed alternative to banned Twitter.

“The World Cup has allowed most Chinese people to see the real situation abroad, and worry about the economy of the motherland, and their own youth,” said another.

A Beijing businessman told The Hindu that his fellow citizens watching the World Cup are discovering “only China and North Korea today are cut off from the rest of the world.”

Some especially irate Chinese citizens actually posted an open letter on WeChat urging their government to move back to the “same planet” as Qatar and implement less onerous pandemic policies. Unfortunately, they forgot they live under a Communist tyranny and censors quickly deleted their letter.

Public resistance against China’s coronavirus lockdown policies is growing, with formerly unthinkable protests popping up in cities like the manufacturing hub of Guangzhou. Although the Chinese Communist Party clearly signaled it would not relax its “zero-Covid” stance at the National Party Congress, it also loosened a few of the most burdensome policies two weeks ago, and then loudly insisted it was not “loosening” anything at all. 

Beijing’s subjects were evidently supposed to get the message that their authoritarian rulers would not admit any flaw in the “zero-Covid” strategy and would not commit to discontinuing lockdowns in the future, but they would quietly do away with some of the most inconvenient protocols and would pay more attention to the needs of their people in the future. The World Cup looks like an eye-opener for Chinese citizens who did not realize just how poor their lot is, compared to the rest of the world.



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