As the weeks passed, Sam, a 27-year-old Shanghainese, saw his anxiety mount. “There is really a mental pressure not being able to leave the house. Working online is complicated, and not being able to meet anyone… I feel depressed”, sighs the young man, confined since March 16. Added to the stress of isolation is a concern specific to the drastic approach adopted by China, in its zero Covid policy: “I’m scared because they can take me on board at any time: all it takes is one positive case in my building, and I’ll be sent to an isolation center. They can come at midnight, no discussion is possible. And, in addition, you have to leave your door open for teams to come and spray your interior with disinfectant… You don’t even have the freedom to stay at home. » So Sam decided to leave his country: “Because I think the coming years are going to be very difficult in China. »
Since Shanghai’s lockdown began eight weeks ago, online searches for emigration procedures have skyrocketed. On May 17, the subject was mentioned one hundred million times on WeChat, the dominant social network in China, compared to five to twenty million times a day in February. On the Baidu search engine, requests concerning emigration have also exploded: the question “How much does the procedure for emigration to Australia cost?” » tops the list of requests. Faced with this renewed interest in the exodus, the Chinese authorities decided, on Thursday 12 May, to “put in place a strict migration policy”stating that the “non-essential outings” of the territory were limited for Chinese nationals, officially to limit returns, and therefore the risks of importing the virus. Only trips abroad for professional or study reasons are tolerated, which can lead to Kafkaesque situations for mixed couples.
Since March 2020, China has canceled 98% of international flights. The rare tickets available are at prohibitive prices. As of August 2021, Beijing had limited exits from the territory to postmen ” required “. As a result, in 2021, China recorded only seventy-four million entries and exits from its territory – 79% less than in 2019 – and issued only three hundred and thirty-five thousand passports in the first half of 2021, i.e. 2% of the total issued in the first half of 2019.
This state of exception, which continues as the rest of the world has abandoned most Covid-related restrictions, is increasingly frustrating for China’s upper middle class, accustomed to travel. Hence an explosion of requests for emigration assistance services. “I have been contacted by dozens of people since April, but that does not mean that all will actually emigratetempers Mr. Wang (a pseudonym), founder of a small emigration consulting firm for the Chinese. The process is long: you have to assess the client’s profile, check the documents he submits to us before deciding which project may suit him. In general, it takes three to six months before signing a contract. »
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