China’s ‘Big White’ COVID Police Face Increasing Pushback Over ‘Unconstitutional’ Measures


For the past three years under the cloak of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) virus, official pandemic prevention staff dressed in white protection gear have been a common site across China. Chinese have given them the nickname, “big whites.”

The big whites—who some refer to as “White Guards” to mark the end of the CCP’s rule, with white in Chinese culture being associated with death, in contrast to the “Red Guards” who secured the CCP’s early rule through political campaigns during the Cultural Revolution—are mostly volunteers but also officers following the central government’s orders to take charge of local pandemic prevention and control. They have been using coercive measures, such as removing people from their homes to take them to quarantine field hospitals (even those who are not yet infected), and breaking into people’s homes to conduct viral disinfection.

The Chinese people have had to live with this intrusive big white army, tasked with the honorable role of enforcing the nation’s zero-COVID policy including by poking everyone’s noses, whether invited or not.

But recently, it has become more common to spot video footage online of fights breaking out with the big whites, although they are also quickly removed be internet censors.

People’s patience for the central government’s COVID-19 policies is showing signs of breaking, and more and more prominent persons have been seen advocating for a shift away from the stifling measures, with many immediately censored.

On May 8, Prof. Tong Zhiwei, an expert on the Chinese Constitution at Shanghai’s East China University of Political Science and Law (ECUPSL), published an article criticizing the extreme pandemic prevention measures adopted by the regime for being unconstitutional. The post, which he claimed had been written in consultation with more than 20 academics from Shanghai, Wuhan, and Beijing, was quickly blocked from the Internet.

The article condemned two particular measures widely adopted by authorities: forced quarantine in field hospitals for those who are not confirmed COVID carriers at the convenience of the authorities, and the confiscation of house keys and forced entries into people’s homes for viral disinfection in the name of pandemic prevention and control.

Workers in protective suits move equipment for a makeshift nucleic acid testing site to the next residential area after wrapping up the screening at a compound in Shanghai on May 14, 2022. (cnsphoto via Reuters)

After the post was removed, online videos and comments continued to reveal more inhumane conduct by local big whites. One comment noted that the White Guards’ actions were like police breaking in to people’s homes, except without a warrant or any official documents.

A May 11 video went viral showing a police officer dressed in white warning a local resident who refused to be taken to quarantine because he had returned a negative test.

“You are subject to punishment if you refuse to follow the order of the government, and the punishment will affect three generations in your family,” the police said. A young man was heard responding, “Excuse me, this is our last generation, thank you!”

Chinese netizens echoed the young man’s response.

Zhang Xuezhong, a Shanghai-based lawyer and former professor at ECUPSL before he was suspended for his human rights activism, also joined in the discussion, saying in a Twitter post, “These tragic words express the deepest despair … This is the strongest indictment a young man can express against the times he lives in.”

Mary Hong

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