Heavily armed police marched four alleged COVID lockdown violators through the streets of a southern Chinese city in an attempt to publicly shame the individuals for breaking the nation’s strict public health rules.
Video of the event showed the four individuals in full hazmat suits being paraded through the city of Jingxi in Guangxi while carrying enlarged printouts of their own mugshots. Newsweek reported that the footage has been viewed over 7 million times on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like social media network.
The communist nation banned public shaming events of criminal suspects in 2010, according to Reuters at the time.
Weibo users condemned the controversial display. Some said it called back to similar public humiliation events known as “struggle sessions,” common during Mao Zedong’s decade-long Cultural Revolution.
“This scene in Jingxi, Guangxi, for the Chinese ‘as a return to the time of the Cultural Revolution,’” one user wrote, according to a Google translation. The comment referenced the public humiliation events known as “struggle sessions” that were common during the Cultural Revolution under Communist Chinese leader and prolific mass-murderer Mao Zedong.
In another clip of the public shaming event, the four alleged lockdown violators stand in the middle of a large crowd while being held by police.
A spokesperson for officials in the township of Anning defended the public humiliation, arguing that there was “nothing inappropriate” about the event because the alleged violators had broken the law and were “punished accordingly.”
The four suspects were accused of helping illegal migrants from Vietnam enter China while the border was closed for the pandemic, state-run Guangxi News said, as France 24 reported.
The outlet also said the shame parade provided citizens with a “real-life warning” and “deterred border-related crimes.”
Jingxi, which is near the Chinese border with Vietnam, is “under tremendous pressure” to stop the importation of COVID-19 cases. Despite the concerns, Chinese Communist Party-affiliated Beijing News said on Wednesday that “the measure seriously violates the spirit of the rule of law and cannot be allowed to happen again.”
Last week, China locked down the city of Xi’an over a recent COVID outbreak. The 13 million residents of Xi’an were told they could not leave their homes, except for one designated individual who could leave every other day to pick up necessities. Nonessential travel from the city was also banned.
The official Xinhua News Agency called containing the virus “grave and complicated.”