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HomeWorldLunar New Year: Heartbreak and anger as China discourages "nonessential" trips

Lunar New Year: Heartbreak and anger as China discourages “nonessential” trips

(CNN) — Normally right now of yr, a whole bunch of tens of millions of Chinese individuals can be packing highways, trains and planes on homebound trips to have a good time the Lunar New Year with their household.

But this yr, the biggest annual human migration on Earth has been placed on maintain, following the Chinese authorities’s name to keep away from “nonessential” trips throughout the vacation interval to forestall a resurgence of the coronavirus.

That is lots to ask. The Lunar New Year, additionally identified as Spring Festival in China, is a very powerful vacation within the Chinese calendar — the equal of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Eve mixed.

For many Chinese who left their hometowns for higher job alternatives in huge cities, it’s the solely probability they could get to see their households this yr. Parents who left youngsters behind in villages so they may work could face one other 12 months with out them.

Travelers wait in the main hall of the Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station in Shanghai, China, on January 30, 2019.

Travelers wait in the primary corridor of the Shanghai Hongqiao Railway Station in Shanghai, China, on January 30, 2019.

Qilai Shen/Bloomberg/Getty Images

To discourage individuals from touring, China’s National Health Commission has imposed new guidelines that require individuals returning to rural areas to provide a adverse Covid-19 check taken throughout the earlier 7 days, and to spend 14 days in “home observation” upon arrival.

Some native governments have added their very own, stricter guidelines. For instance, in some locations, returnees must spend two weeks in a government-approved quarantine lodge, as a substitute of remaining underneath remark at house with their households.

The new restrictions have provoked fury on social media, with some questioning the federal government’s coverage at a time when many individuals had hoped to go house.

“I would like to ask, did you seriously think about it and look into it before making this policy?” one individual posted on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like service.

“Do medical conditions in the vast rural areas allow everyone to have an coronavirus test every 7 days? Doesn’t the gathering for coronavirus tests bring a bigger risk of infection? In addition, the state only gives us 7 days of statutory holiday, and now you ask returnees to be isolated for 14 days. What are your brains made of?”

For months, state media has celebrated China’s success in taming the coronavirus, contrasting its speedy, efficient measures with the chaotic method of some Western governments.

But this yr has introduced recent challenges. In January, greater than 2,000 constructive circumstances had been detected in China’s northern provinces, the worst resurgence of the virus since March.

Given the virus’ fast transmission, Beijing acknowledges the necessity to transfer shortly, as do the Chinese individuals, however that does not imply they’re joyful about it.

Second Lunar New Year hit by coronavirus

It’s the second yr in a row that the Lunar New Year, which begins on February 12 this yr, has been overshadowed by the coronavirus pandemic that has claimed greater than two million lives worldwide.

Last yr, Beijing’s foremost prepare station was overflowing with vacationers earlier than the Lunar New Year, as Chinese authorities had not but introduced the coronavirus was transmittable from individual to individual, or admitted that it was already spreading outdoors of Wuhan, the epicenter of China’s preliminary outbreak.

Wuhan was ultimately locked down two days earlier than Lunar New Year’s Day, however tens of millions of individuals within the central Chinese metropolis had already traveled again to their hometowns within the weeks main as much as the vacation, accelerating the unfold of the virus.

After the vacation, many had been caught of their hometowns, as new journey restrictions prevented them from returning to the cities the place they labored.

A Chinese flag hangs over an empty departure hall at Beijing Chaoyang Railway Station on the first day of the Spring Festival travel rush on January 28, 2021.

A Chinese flag hangs over an empty departure corridor at Beijing Chaoyang Railway Station on the primary day of the Spring Festival journey rush on January 28, 2021.

Jia Tianyong/China News Service/Getty Images

This yr, the departure corridor on the Beijing prepare station stays largely empty within the lead as much as Lunar New Year. The authorities’s name for individuals to remain put within the cities the place they work has apparently labored.

On the primary day of the 40-day Spring Festival journey rush, or “chunyun,” which fell on January 28 this yr, Beijing Capital International Airport noticed an 86% drop in departing passengers in contrast with the identical interval final yr. Across the nation, the drop in air passengers on the primary day of chunyun was 71% in contrast with final yr, in keeping with the Civil Aviation Administration of China.
The Ministry of Transport estimates that 1.15 billion trips might be made throughout the 40-day Lunar New Year journey interval this yr, 61% lower than in 2019 and 22% lower than final yr.

If the predictions are right, it is going to be lowest variety of trips made throughout Lunar New Year for the reason that authorities started publishing information in 2003.

Criticism and censorship

China’s plans for Lunar New Year stand in stark distinction to the final main vacation in October, when crowds packed public transport and vacationer sights across the nation for Golden Week.

Then, China had not reported any domestically transmitted symptomatic case since mid-August, and each the federal government and the individuals had been assured in retaining the virus underneath management.

Pictures of home vacationers cramming the Great Wall had been featured prominently in state media, as proof of China’s success in containing Covid-19.
Chinese tourists crowd a bottleneck as they move slowly along the Great Wall of China during the Golden Week holiday in October, 2020.

Chinese vacationers crowd a bottleneck as they transfer slowly alongside the Great Wall of China throughout the Golden Week vacation in October, 2020.

Kevin Frayer/Getty Images

This time round, Chinese state media is unleashing a really totally different propaganda marketing campaign, exalting individuals’s choice to remain put as an act of fulfilling their accountability to the nation — however the reward has not been uniformly welcomed.

Last week, People’s Daily, the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s mouthpiece, posted what appeared like an innocuous message on Weibo.

“Every Chinese has their special Spring Festival memories. But this year, the Spring Festival will be different from before … Tens of thousands of people have chosen to stay for the Lunar New Year. Their sticking around is for a better reunion in the future,” it mentioned.

The put up was quickly flooded with offended feedback. “Don’t thank them. They all want to go home. It’s true,” learn a high remark, which generated greater than 4,400 likes in lower than three hours.

“The government has set countless barriers for (people who) want to go home to pay a price. They hurt the interest of home returners to achieve the result the government wants. It’s shameful that the government feels proud about this,” one other high remark reads.

By the subsequent morning, all vital feedback had been eliminated. The People’s Daily printed one other Weibo put up alongside comparable strains, nevertheless it was additionally inundated with criticism.

“As state media, can you bend down to hear the people’s voice? Is your propaganda work only for pleasing the leaders? We all know we can’t go home for the new year, and are feeling miserable about it, but you keep sensationalizing it and keep talking about it. Who really wants to hear your ‘thank you’?” mentioned a remark, which was later additionally deleted.

Workers wearing personal protective equipment spray disinfectant at Jingzhou Railway Station in Hubei on Febraury 1, 2021.

Workers carrying private protecting gear spray disinfectant at Jingzhou Railway Station in Hubei on Febraury 1, 2021.

Yang Qiu/VCG/Getty Images

The central authorities has banned individuals from or with journey historical past to high-risk areas from touring. Those in medium-risk areas are additionally not allowed to journey until they acquire particular approval from native illness management authorities and current a adverse coronavirus check taken inside 72 hours. Residents in low-risk areas are inspired to remain put, however aren’t banned from touring.

However, on Weibo, customers additionally complained that native governments of their hometowns had imposed further necessities on returnees, regardless of Beijing’s order that no extreme necessities ought to be added by native authorities.

“I think the policy is too harsh,” mentioned Dan Di, a 21-year-old pupil from the southern metropolis of Guangzhou, who requested to make use of a pseudonym to keep away from repercussions for criticizing the federal government.

He has simply completed 21 days of quarantine — two weeks at a lodge within the close by metropolis of Zhuhai and one week at house in Guangzhou — after getting back from Hong Kong, the place he’s learning movie at college.

Dan Di considers himself fortunate to have the ability to spend time and cash on quarantine and coronavirus exams — however he famous that it might be out for attain or most of the nation’s almost 300 million migrant employees.

“The spring festival is the only chance, and the most important chance for them to go home, to stay with their family,” he mentioned.

Last Friday, the Ministry of Civil Affairs issued a tenet for native officers to reinforce “care and service” for the 7 million or so youngsters who will not see their mother and father this Lunar New Year.

It instructs mother and father to make use of “phone calls and video calls to conduct ‘heart to heart’ talks with their left-behind children.”


After a tough 2020, many Chinese individuals had appeared ahead to seeing their households. However, the outbreak within the north threatens to undo the work Beijing has performed thus far to include the virus.

Unsurprisingly, native officers have thrown their assist behind the central authorities’s marketing campaign. They’re not solely imposing onerous necessities for exams and isolation — they’re even handing out subsidies and advantages to encourage individuals to remain put.

The metropolis of Hangzhou in jap China, for instance, is providing a money handout of 1,000 yuan ($155) for each migrant employee. Other cities are offering buying coupons, discounted lease and even early entry to coronavirus vaccines, in keeping with Chinese media reviews.

Lunar New Year 2021 The Year of the Ox

A employee hangs conventional purple lanterns for the upcoming Spring Festival in a often busy industrial and vacationer space on February 3, 2021 in Beijing, China.

Kevin Frayer/Getty Images AsiaPac/Getty Images

Tian Qimeng, who runs an engineering consulting firm within the port metropolis of Tianjin in jap China, mentioned his firm is handing out 300 yuan ($46) of money to non-local staff who select to remain for the vacation.

“I originally wanted to go home, too, but eventually decided against it as I wanted to make a good example for everyone,” he mentioned.

The 49-year-old did not return to his hometown in Shaanxi province final yr because of fears over the coronavirus. The final time he did not return house for Lunar New Year for 2 years in a row was greater than twenty years in the past, when he had simply graduated from college — he was too busy working as a technician and he spent these holidays on a building web site.

Tian says he “respects and understands” the restrictions imposed on journey.

“They’re all professional (health) experts, if you ask me to made (policies) I can’t come up with better ones. So why not just follow theirs? It’s the best for everyone to do what they’re good at,” he mentioned.

Others are additionally following official steerage.

Vicky Wang, a web firm worker based mostly in Shanghai, would usually fly again to her mother and father in northern Shaanxi province every week earlier than the Lunar New Year.

Instead, this yr the 25-year-old is stocking up on her favourite snacks — rice crackers and chocolate — as she prepares to hunker right down to spend a very powerful pageant of the yr alone in her house, greater than 1,200 kilometers (745 miles) away from her household.

Wang mentioned she understands the federal government’s options and considerations.

“We have to live our life in a safer way. We have to cut off all the possibilities for the virus to spread. We have to make a little bit of sacrifice for everyone to keep us safe,” she mentioned.

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