According to Chinese immigration consultants, inquiries from wealthy individuals attempting to flee the country have increased as a result of Shanghai's lockdown, highlighting Beijing's zero-Covid strategy's growing frustration.
Following an outbreak of the Omicron coronavirus variant, authorities imposed severe restrictions on the city of 26 million people, disrupting everything from food supplies to healthcare, calls about emigration have risen sharply this month, according to more than a dozen consultancies.
According to the WeChat Index, a public monitor that measures search popularity on the social media platform, related keyword searches have soared as well, with "immigration" seeing a nearly seven-fold increase since the beginning of April.
Clients who had previously postponed or cancelled plans to move due to fears of contracting the virus or encountering hostility abroad have resurrected their plans, according to immigration consultants.
According to James Chen, a consultant in Shanghai, "the authorities are making people sacrifice their basic needs to fight a disease that’s a bit more severe than seasonal flu. Our customers exercised their right to vote with their feet."
An agent at QWOS, a firm offering immigration services in Shanghai stated: "I have had so many inquiries over the past few weeks that I couldn’t reply to them in a timely manner," after receiving over 200 requests on Saturday.
Lucy Wang, the owner of an immigration consultancy in Chengdu, in the southwest, said she was fielding client requests for 12 hours a day. "I haven’t been so busy for many months," she said.
The restrictions have become increasingly frustrating for Shanghai residents. Many people have reported difficulty getting basic necessities like food and medicine, and online grocery stores have run out of delivery couriers after workers were quarantined after testing positive for Covid-19. Last week, small protests erupted in the city.
According to official data released on Sunday, Shanghai has reported more than 350,000 Covid-19 cases since March, including more than 24,820 new cases on Saturday.
Three elderly people with underlying health conditions died of Covid on Monday, the first official fatalities in the city during the current outbreak, according to authorities. Medical experts have questioned the validity of official data, citing the fact that only two deaths had previously been reported across the country, despite the fact that over 443,000 cases had been registered since March 1.
One 89-year-old woman suffering from heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, and cerebral infarction. The 91-year-old woman had a cerebral infarction and was suffering from hypertension. The 91-year-old man also had high blood pressure and coronary heart disease. They were all rushed to the hospital and died.
However, as Beijing intensifies propaganda efforts to drum up support for its zero-Covid policies, online criticism of the measures has been quickly scrubbed.
Jane Wang, a 38 years old marketing researcher based in Shanghai is one of the many who reached out to QWOS to discuss emigration options after being home quarantined for over four weeks stated: "I have never thought about being confined to my home for many days without enough to eat."
She continued, "What happened in Shanghai made me feel insecure. "
Because of deteriorating relations with China, long-favorite destinations such as the United States and Canada have lost some appeal for emigrants. Consultants say that countries with better ties to Beijing, such as Singapore and Ireland, have grown in popularity.
John Li, an engineer based in Beijing who gave up his dream of moving to San Francisco and recently paid $6,300 to obtain a residence permit in Singapore said: "I don’t feel welcome in the US when American politicians and media outlets keep saying negative things about China." "I want to move to a country where Chinese people are respected."
Experts warn, however, that a variety of factors, including international travel restrictions and a lack of job opportunities abroad, could prevent China's disgruntled middle class from fleeing.
"One who wants to reside in another country has to be accepted by that country and go through a complicated admission process. The current situation in Shanghai and many other Chinese cities may accelerate the exodus of some affected middle-class families but it’s too early to say whether it becomes a trend." said Cong Cao, a professor at the University of Nottingham Ningbo.
By fLEXI tEAM