Fangcang (square cab hospital) hospitals refer to a kind of large-scale makeshift mobile health centers, which became popular worldwide when the Chinese communist regime in the early 2020s began setting them up across the country to lock up (often against their will) patients infected with, or suspected of being infected with Covid-19.

Although the Chinese regime did not acknowledge it, in January 2020, its traditional hospitals began to collapse due to their inability to cope with an exponential demand of patients with rare pneumonia that in a few days caused serious health issues, especially in those with pre-existing diseases.

These health centers have the characteristic of being set up in record time, which was used by the regime to boast of its progress to the rest of the world that was looking expectantly at the measures adopted by the countries where the virus began to spread.

But beyond the propaganda carried out by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in its media, what is the function of these mega constructions? Did they really serve to stop the virus, or is it just another mechanism of social control and demonstration of the power of the Chinese communist regime?

Characteristics of the Fangcang

The Chinese regime enthusiastically promoted the construction of these mega structures in just ten days. With a simple architecture, giant rooms shared by up to 600 people, and precarious bathrooms, they resemble refugee centers more than hospitals. However, in China, they have become symbols of the fight against Covid or symbols of power by the regime, depending on who is telling the story. 

These hospitals, which began to be built in Wuhan and then replicated throughout the country, can house thousands of people. The announced objective is to provide care and accommodation to infected people or those who have had close contact. 

Reality showed that thousands of people were forced to remain locked up in these health centers, often separating children and older people from their families for several weeks without consent.

The construction process was broadcast live by the pro-government state media, and the accelerated drone images of a large empty field being transformed into a fully functioning hospital received millions of clicks on the internet, fulfilling the objective of imposing on the world the idea that the Chinese regime was leading the fight against the CCP virus.

Many of these facilities were also set up in already existing structures such as giant sports stadiums, convention centers, or gymnasiums, quickly transformed into huge rooms with beds for thousands of people.

In the fangcang, they locked up all those who tested positive for Covid and many who tested negative but had been in contact with a positive case in an attempt to decompress the traditional hospitals. 

The regime announced practically no deaths due to the virus and argued its supposed success with its exemplary management of the crisis and the construction of these specialized hospitals. According to the regime, only a little more than 5,000 people have died of Covid in all of China, even though the virus was born there, the most populated country in the world.

Many independent journalists reported having seen thousands of dead bodies outside hospitals and in collapsed crematoriums which obviously were not counted and cast doubt on the official data.

Testimony of a doctor 

According to official reports, the Chinese regime in January 2020 sent more than 42,000 medical workers from across the country to the Hubei region to serve in the fangcang. 

Some went voluntarily, but many others, according to their accounts, were forced to travel there against their will and work for several weeks in the newly erected health centers to care for patients with Covid or suspected of being infected.

According to the testimony of Wang Wei, a young doctor from Guandong who spent six weeks working in a fangcang in Wuhan, each doctor was in charge of about 100 patients, which led to chaos and dissatisfaction among the patients who had no clear information about their health status.

Wang Wei also said that patients often had to be locked up for longer than stipulated because there were not enough tests to ensure they were free of disease. Paradoxically, at the same time, the front pages of the world’s newspapers announced the donation by the Chinese regime of millions of rapid tests to different countries.

The interned people often lost their patience after several days of being locked up against their will, with no certainty about their state of health or that of their relatives who were locked up in other centers. As a result, it was common for violent situations to be provoked against health personnel, the visible face of the perverse system.

Doctors outside their working hours also had to remain locked in their rooms without being able to go out or have contact with the outside world or their loved ones. Except for a few violent outbreaks, the general population was so bombarded with the spread of terror around the disease that they would obey even the most illogical and unscientific orders, such as being locked up in a health center instead of in their own homes. 

What happened to the fangcang?

A few months after the global pandemic was declared, while the world was paralyzed by the infections and deaths counted by the media as if they had died in a war, China, where the virus was born, declared itself free of the disease. With only 4,500 deaths officially announced, the regime allowed daily life to resume.

CCP leaders, without showing honest statistics, announced to have controlled the coronavirus, and the fangcang hospitals, together with their technology and health personnel, were, according to them, a fundamental link for this purpose.

However, many testimonies claim that the dead in China were many more than those declared. Even in several districts, it was claimed to have seen countless corpses in hospitals and morgues overcrowded with bodies to be cremated.

Considering these testimonies, the confinement measures of the millions of patients forced to stay in fangcang hospitals do not seem to have had a meaning other than to impose fear in society and absolute sanitary control over the population by the communist regime.

In a matter of two and a half years, fangcang emerged as a novel concept on the coronavirus battlefield in China and then became part of everyday life in a supposedly Covid-free society.

The current and future situation

During the first months of 2022, the world news shocked the public when it announced that the Chinese regime was building huge new Covid isolation sites in several cities in China, some even bigger than the original ones.

Then many stories began to be broadcast on the internet telling how thousands of citizens in the city of Xi’an in early January 2022 were evicted from their homes and forcibly taken to these new isolation centers. They were only informed that they would be quarantined due to new infections in their vicinity.

Residents expressed concern on social media about the incident, saying they were unsure where they were headed and that they were put on buses together for hours until they were taken to a remote Fangcang without adequate supplies. The term “bèi lāzǒu” and “being dragged” was used.

Among those “arrested” were the elderly, pregnant women, and children. Those affected did not understand why they should be forced to stay in these health centers if they were not infected and had not been in close contact with any Covid patients.

An online comment posted on January 2 that went viral read:

“Isn’t isolation at home also isolation? The Fangcang hospitals were built to focus on treating the mildly ill, separately from the seriously ill. But nowadays, after discovering one positive case, Xi’an wants to pull away from the entire neighborhood to a centralized quarantine with poor conditions— even if everyone has already been in home quarantine for over a week.” 

“Is this all just so that Xi’an can say it has zero infections while ignoring the scientific basis that many families tested negative multiple times?” the message read.

Within days, Xi’an authorities claimed to have more than 50,000 people isolated in different fangcang hospitals in the city. 

Among them were many children and infants who were forcibly separated from their parents and placed in isolation centers for minors after testing positive for the virus.

As Covid cases continued to rise during March and April this year, videos also began to emerge showing chaotic scenes at some fangcang sites in Shanghai, where patients fought for supplies such as blankets, water, and food, some crying when they could not get them. 

The photos, images, and unofficial news published on social networks exposed the marked differences between the living conditions in the different fangcang hospitals and the image that the CCP intends to show the world about how it is handling the virus and the use of its controversial isolation hospitals, which have been transformed into real detention centers for the infected or “possible infected.”

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