The tragedy of the “we are the last generation” claim from the Chinese youth

China’s harsh epidemic prevention and control policy is causing more and more absurd stories. In a new video that went viral in China recently, a young man being forced to go into quarantine shouted: “This is our last generation.” This quote became a trending topic on Weibo, but the social network administrator quickly deleted it. Many netizens believe that this stands as a powerful voice of a young generation expressing despair and grief. Looking back at the 1989 students in Tiananmen Square who called for the responsibility of saving the country and the “last generation” cry in 2022, how has the way the Chinese people spirit changed?

In a video circulating on the Internet, a Dabai or a Big White (a word used to describe Chinese epidemic prevention workers in white hazmat suits) illegally coerced people (who were considered to have close contact with those infected with Covid-19) into quarantine. His face cannot be seen clearly, but the word “police” on his protective suit seems to give him limitless power; he threatened the person being forced into quarantine with harsh words, and the people’s reaction was unexpected.

Epidemic prevention worker said: After the punishment is applied, it will affect three of your generations.

The person replied: Sorry, this is our last generation, thanks.

The calm response of the self-proclaimed “last generation” caused a huge wave of reactions on the Internet.

The Chinese-language media channel Apollo reported on the incident but could not independently verify the location and time of the incident, but it began circulating on the Chinese Internet on May 11.

According to Apollo, some netizens believe that this is the powerful voice and the tragedy of this generation. Someone commented that “How desperate it must be to say this.”

In the video, three epidemic prevention workers in white protective suits were at the door of the owner’s house and asked to put all people in the house “in close contact with the infected person” to be isolated. The young person in the house said: “We are all negative with covid, you have no right to force us, you can only take those who are positive. According to the law on police management and epidemic prevention measures, he can only forcibly send a positive person to quarantine. We’re willing to take the risk, we don’t have to go anywhere, thank you.”

Then, a person wearing a white protective suit with the word “police” threatened: “If you don’t go, you will be punished (by the police), which will affect your family for three generations!”

The young man replied bluntly, “This is our last generation, thank you” and closed the door to leave the three people in protective gear outside.

According to Sound of Hope, the video went viral on social media like Weibo and WeChat, but it has since been deleted. Weibo directly blocked hashtags like “# This is our last generation, thanks!” or “# Last Generation.” Searches on the two topics above yield no relevant results.

Sound of Hope said, the WeChat account “Tou Niu Daguan” posted an article on the afternoon of May 12, commenting on the incident: “How much oppression had the people gone through to shout that “we are the last generation”? It is not the hardship and poverty that make people lose faith in life, but a lack of hope. (It is a) True brutality that is targeting innocent people. 

The author shared: “I don’t know if the new baby who just comes to this world would regret it. One of my friends said that their child is now four years old and still hasn’t been able to travel with them at all. The real playtime is when the whole family is forced to take the nucleic acid test in the neighborhood. I really feel so sad that I can’t hold it in. Please leave a little hope for the future. Covid 19 is just a disease. Even if infected, it is only a patient, not a sinner, even less an enemy. We will not question the general policy of epidemic prevention, but we must understand that we should fight the epidemic, not against the kind and honest people.

However, this post was deleted more than two hours after it had been posted.

Radio Free Asia (RFA) interviewed a young man surnamed Chen who was quarantined in a hotel; he was one of those helpless people who could not resist being forced into a 14-day quarantine.

He said: “These powerful people can do anything crazy, and you can’t stop it. It’s useless (to do anything). If you don’t cooperate, you’ll be dragged (away). There’s no way (to deal with it).” Mr. Chen also told the reporter that he had long thought that there would be just him and his cat in this generation in his family. Since he is still in China, he does not want to be interviewed by name for personal safety reasons.

Mr. Chen is very worried that his cat will be tortured and killed like many animals killed in Shanghai because the owner contracted the disease. Although community workers have repeatedly reassured him that his cat will be fine, it will only be known after the 14-day quarantine.

Mr. Chen helplessly said: “No matter what you do, you are very helpless. You can’t control anything. Sometimes you just want to live as a human being. But it’s a very difficult, desperate reality.”

Some people on the Internet have sorted the timeline showing big changes of this age in communist China as follows:

In 1966, when the Great Cultural Revolution took place, the youth’s slogan at that time was “Innocent it is to make revolution, and justified it is to rebel!”

In 1989, when there was a pro-democracy protest in Tiananmen, the slogan of Chinese youth was “Because this is our responsibility.”

By 2022, young Chinese people shouts, “This is our last generation, thank you.”

Ye Yaoyuan, dean of the Department of Contemporary Linguistics and International Studies at the University of St. Thomas, USA, told RFA that this reflects that the grievances of the Chinese people have reached a high level now, and they are very disgusted with the government’s way of fighting the epidemic. But will this “pressure cooker” explode, and when? It’s hard to say, but the bottom line is that technology has made the CCP’s surveillance capabilities more powerful and effective.

“From 1989 to 2022, the CCP’s tools to control people have become incomparable, and they are now trying their best to monitor, just because they fear the appearance of the collective and oppositional acts (like in 1989). In 1989, the CCP really didn’t have that kind of ability to monitor people,” said Ye Yaoyuan.

According to Yi Fuxian, a researcher at the University of Wisconsin who has long been concerned about China’s population and fertility policies, China’s epidemic prevention and control methods will undoubtedly reduce the fertility rate.

Yi Fuxian told RFA: “What the government should do is creating a better living environment and conditions for people to be willing to live in. The government has this duty and responsibility.”

CCP’s official epidemic prevention activities are clearly different from Yi Fuxian’s reminder.

The “last generation” sounds like a big warning. According to Statista, “in 2021, approximately 4.7 children per 1,000 regular resident population were born in the Shanghai municipality in China. Despite the gradual relaxation of the one-child policy and its final abolition in 2016, the number of births in Shanghai and the birth rate decreased considerably in recent years”.

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