This video – seen 10 million times in less than 24 hours – shows a group of uniformed officers raiding a corner shop in a locked-down Chinese city and seizing valuable goods including cigarettes.
Officers with the Urban Management Bureau in the city of Ezhou, in Central China’s Hubei Province, have been criticised and likened to “bandits” after they forcefully confiscated the goods.
An official has responded by saying its officers were only carrying out orders to ensure shops remain closed during the strictly imposed lockdown period.
CCTV footage from the town of Changgang shows the officers carrying box after box out of the shop, and then gathering other valuable items such as cigarettes from behind the counter.
Surveillance video of the operation on 17th February was leaked online the next day, when it quickly went viral on social media.
Netizens compared the officers to “bandits” after they appeared to take only the most valuable items from the shopkeeper.
On 19th February, a spokesman for the Ezhou City Urban Management Bureau explained the operation, saying: “On 16th February we notified all the shops to cease operations. All but two shops in Changgang were ordered to shut.
“In actual fact, over the past half a month, those shops had been repeatedly ordered to close, but the shopkeepers started playing games with us.
“They’d shut their doors when we arrived, and then open them again when we left.
“We notified all shop owners the day before. If they continued to operate, we’d begin to enforce measures and seize goods.
“During a patrol on 17th February, we discovered three to four people exiting the shop with products, so our officers went in to seize the goods.”
The spokesman ensured all items taken were listed and would be returned when the lockdown is lifted.
The city of Ezhou borders Wuhan where the COVID-19 outbreak is thought to have started.
Hours after Wuhan was put on full lockdown on 23rd January, travel restrictions were also imposed in Ezhou and neighbouring Huanggang City, before the ban was enforced across all 17 cities in Hubei Province where 58 million live.
The lockdown is nearing four full weeks as the coronavirus death toll rises to 2,118 in mainland China and 2,128 worldwide.
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