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China News: China, desperate to stop the coronavirus, turns its neighbor into a neighbor | World News

GUANGZHOU: One person was rejected by one hotel after another after he showed his ID card. Another was expelled by fearful local villagers. A third party found that his most sensitive personal information leaked online after registering with the authorities.

These outcasts are from Wuhan, the capital of Hubei Province, where a rapidly spreading viral outbreak has killed more than 420 people in China and generated fear throughout the world. They are pariahs in China, among the millions who cannot return home and fear they are potential carriers of the mysterious coronavirus.

Across the country, despite China’s vast surveillance network with its facial recognition systems and high-end cameras that are increasingly used to track its 1.4 billion people, the government has resorted to family authoritative techniques, how to create dragnets and ask neighbors to report on each other, as it tries to contain the outbreak.

It took the authorities approximately five days to contact Harmo Tang, a university student studying in Wuhan, after he returned to his hometown, Linhai, in the eastern province of Zhejiang. Tang said he had already been under self-imposed isolation when local officials asked for his personal information, including name, address, telephone number, identity card number and the date he returned from Wuhan. In a matter of days, the information began to spread online, along with a list of others who returned to Linhai from Wuhan.

The local officials offered no explanation, but returned a few days later to fix the police tape to his door and hang a sign warning the neighbors that a returnee from Wuhan lived there. The sign included an information hotline to call if someone saw him or his family leave the apartment. Tang said he received about four daily calls from different departments of the local government.

“There really isn’t much empathy,” he said. “It’s not a tone of love they are using. It’s a warning tone. I don’t feel very comfortable about it.”

Of course, China has an important incentive to locate potential carriers of the disease. The coronavirus outbreak has blocked parts of the country, virtually stopped the second largest economy in the world and erected walls between China and the rest of the world.

Even so, even some government officials asked for understanding as concerns about prejudices spread. Experts warned that such marginalization of an already vulnerable group could be counterproductive, further damage public confidence and send those who should be examined and monitored more deeply.

“We are paying attention to this issue,” said Ma Guoqiang, secretary of the Wuhan Chinese Communist Party, at a press conference last Tuesday.

“I think some people can label Hubei people or report them, but I also believe that most people will treat Hubei people with a good heart.”

While networks of Christian volunteers and groups have openly expressed their help, many local leaders have focused their efforts on finding and isolating the people of Hubei. On large screens and billboards, videos and propaganda posters warn people who stay inside, wear masks and wash their hands.

In the northern province of Hebei, a county offered rewards of 1,000 yuan, or about $ 140, for each Wuhan person reported by residents. Online images showed cities digging up roads or replacing men to block strangers. Some residents of apartment buildings closed the doors of their towers with ubiquitous shared travel bicycles from China.

In eastern Jiangsu province, the quarantine became imprisonment after authorities used metal posts to close the door of a family that had just returned from Wuhan. To get food, the family depended on neighbors who lowered provisions with a rope to the back balcony, according to a local news report.

Frightened by the safety of their children as conditions in the home worsened, Andy Li, a Wuhan tech worker who was traveling with his family in Beijing, rented a car and started driving south to Guangdong, in an effort to Find shelter with family there. In Nanjing, he was rejected from a hotel before getting a room in a luxury hotel.

There he established a self-imposed family quarantine for four days, until local authorities ordered all Wuhan people to move to a hotel next to the city’s central train station. Li said the quarantine hotel didn’t seem to be doing a good job isolating people. Food delivery workers came and went, while gaps in the doors and walls allowed the entry of air currents.

“They are only working to separate the people of Wuhan from those of Nanjing,” Li said. “They don’t care at all if Wuhan people infect each other.”

To help, he put towels and tissues under the door to block drafts.

“I am not complaining about the government,” Li said. “There will always be gaps in politics. But in a selfish way I am really worried about my children.”

Across the country, the response of local authorities often resembles the mass mobilizations of the Mao era rather than the technocratic magic based on data represented in the propaganda about China’s emerging surveillance status. They also resorted to the techniques that Beijing used to combat the outbreak of SARS, another deadly disease, in 2002 and 2003, when China was much less technologically sophisticated.

Control points have appeared to detect people with fever in toll booths, at the entrance doors of apartment complexes and in hotels, supermarkets and train stations. Often, those who hold the thermometer guns do not keep them close enough to a person’s forehead, which generates unusually low temperature readings. Such controls were not worth, for example, against a man in the western province of Qinghai, whom the police are investigating on suspicion that he covered his symptoms for travel.

Authorities have used computerized systems that track identification cards, which should be used to take long-distance transportation and stay in hotels, to gather people from Wuhan. However, an article about the identification system in The People’s Daily, the spokesman for the Chinese Communist Party, included an appeal to all passengers on affected flights and trains for information.

Campaigns have changed life unexpectedly. Jia Yuting, a 21-year-old student in Wuhan, had already returned to her hometown in central China for 18 days, more than the 14-day quarantine period, when she received news that her grandfather was ill in a nearby village . During a visit to see him, she followed the local instructions transmitted by the speakers in the village and recorded her personal data in the local Communist Party Committee.

When a high school teacher contacted her at random in the WeChat messaging application to ask about her health, she realized that her data had been leaked online and was being extended in a list. Later, he received a threatening phone call from a man who lived in his hometown.

“Why did you come back Wuhan? You should have stayed there. You are a Wuhan dog! ”, He remembered saying.

The authorities offered no explanation of how it happened, and insisted that such leaks did not interrupt his normal life. Three days after his visit to the town, his grandfather died. Local officials there immediately told her family that she would not be allowed to return to the village to pay her final respects at a funeral to be held more than three weeks after she had returned from Wuhan.

“I feel that the villagers are ignorant and that the government is not helping; instead, it is leaking information everywhere without telling them that I have no symptoms,” he said, adding that he felt guilty of not being able to be there to comfort her grandmother.

“I was very close to my grandfather. I think it’s not human, it’s cruel. ”

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