Spooky Shenanigans in Shanghai: Halloween Revellers Show Protest Spirit

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Halloween in Shanghai was a sight to behold as revellers flooded the streets on Tuesday night, flaunting their creative costumes and making a statement against China’s strict COVID-19 restrictions. Despite the watchful eyes of the police, the event became a rare platform for free expression.

The festivities began over the weekend and reached their peak on Tuesday, attracting a lively crowd of predominantly young people to a popular bar area. While many attendees opted for classic costumes like monsters and superheroes, a few grabbed attention on social media with their outfits that poked fun at last year’s infamous blue and white hazmat suits, worn by authorities enforcing COVID-19 curbs known as ‘dabai’.

Almost a year ago, Shanghai faced historic protests against China’s stringent COVID measures, leading to similar demonstrations in other cities and ultimately prompting the country’s sudden policy reversal in December 2020.

Social media posts during and before Tuesday’s event highlighted some of the more provocative costumes. One post featured a man dressed as the iconic Lu Xun, a famous author whose works resonate with Chinese youth grappling with sky-high unemployment rates. In a video, the man passionately recited a piece by the author, encouraging those with a voice to speak out, before being asked to leave by a police officer (the authenticity of the video remains unverified).

‘The ‘dabai’ suits, COVID-19 testing, and the A-share market—all represented by the costumes worn by the people of Shanghai—are all symbolic of the struggles and scars we have endured. Entertainment is not just about fun; it reflects the harsh realities of our lives,’ commented one user on Weibo.

Openly criticising government policies is a rare occurrence in China, as the authorities have been cracking down on freedom of expression. In a nod to last year’s protests, some party-goers donned costumes adorned with blank sheets of paper, a powerful symbol that resonated with the crowd.

Despite the presence of the police, there appeared to be little aggressive intervention to disperse the gathering. However, some individuals dressed in costumes that could be seen as subversive were filmed being escorted away.

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