Residents of an upscale Shanghai neighborhood took to the streets on a sunny Sunday night to protest lockdown restrictions placed upon them by their community. They were free to leave the next morning.
This week, the story of the triumphant story spread quickly on chat groups in China. It raised one question: Should we not do the same?
Other residents faced management at their complexes by the end of the week. Some had even won partial release.
Although it is not clear how widespread they are these incidents reflect frustration after seven weeks of lockdown. However, the number of daily cases has dropped to a few hundred in a 25-million-person city.
They are also a reminder of China's power of its neighborhood committees, which the ruling Communist Party relies upon to distribute propaganda messages, enforce their decisions, and settle personal disputes. These committees and the residential boards that they oversee have been the subject of many complaints, particularly after several in Shanghai and other cities refused residents entry even though there were no restrictions.
Shanghai now has more than 21 million residents in "precaution zones", the most restrictive category. They are allowed to leave in theory. They are subject to a variety of rules and regulations, so their decision is ultimately up to the residential committees.
You can go out for a short time, but only with a pass that is valid for a specific day or week. Some places allow only one person per household in order to leave. Some places prohibit people from leaving.
Weronika Truszczynska from Poland, a graduate student, posted videos about her experience.
She said, "The residential committee informed us that we can wait for a week and that we will reopen most likely on June 1st." "No one believed it."
More than 12 residents of Truszczynska confronted their managers two days after Sunday's breakout at the Huixianju compound.
Residents, mainly Chinese, demanded that they be allowed to leave the area without any time restrictions or limitations on how many people could live in each household. Some protestors returned the second day to protest after the demands were not fulfilled. Four police officers stood by to watch this time.
On Thursday afternoon, community representatives knocked at the doors of all residents with a new policy. They wrote their name, apartment number, and temperature on a list and then scan a barcode.
Truszczynska spoke highly of her fellow residents, saying that they were allowed to go out because they were courageous enough to protest.
People being quarantined and workers forced to sleep at work have reacted against the Shanghai lockdown. Social media videos showed employees from Taiwan's Quanta Computer Inc. trying force their way out.
This urban environment has helped the party's anti-virus campaign. Hundreds of millions of Chinese live in walled areas or in gated apartments.
Neighborhood committees are the frontline for enforcement. They are responsible for monitoring every household in every city and for enforcing sanitation and public health rules.
Many people tend to favor over-enforcement. This is evident when they see the examples of public officials who have been fired or criticised for not fulfilling their pandemic prevention duties.
Although the importance of neighborhood committees declined in the 1990s when the Communist Party eased restrictions on citizens' movement, they are currently thriving under President Xi Jinping's ongoing tightening of societal controls.
Others took notice of the incident at Huixianju and began to speak out. A series of videos circulated this week show about two dozen people marching towards the Western Nanjing Road Police Station chanting "Respect law, give back my life!"
Residents in Jing'an saw neighboring compounds' gates open over the last month, but theirs was locked. About two dozen people gathered at the gate on Wednesday to call for a representative.