‘No Sense of Security Unless You Have Really High Social Status’

After arriving in Europe, Hannah (pseudonym) told her friends she probably would never return to China. As a former reporter in Beijing, many of her friends in the media have similar plans. The political uncertainty under an authoritarian government has created a sense of insecurity in China. “You never know what’s going to happen as an average citizen,” she said.

Hannah (pseudonym), Former Journalist: I finished my undergraduate studies in the U.S., and then went back to Beijing to work as a journalist. All my work experiences are in the media field. I left China in August 2020. I then went to Denmark first, and I’m now in Prague pursuing my master’s degree.

I decided to get out mainly because of the pandemic control measures, including the whole city lockdowns. It just gave everyone a sense of insecurity. You have no idea what an authoritarian government might do under circumstances like this. People started to speculate that the government would tighten border control, and no one knew when these measures would end. I thought that if I didn’t get out then, I might have no chance to get out later.

Reporter:Among your friends, how many are talking or thinking about emigration?

Hannah: I think many, since most of my friends work in the media industry. I know some have already emigrated, some are preparing for it and will emigrate in the next one or two years.

Reporter:What are the reasons? Are people disappointed with the government, so they decide to leave?

Hannah: Everyone has their own reasons. I guess unless you have really high social status, most of the people feel a sense of insecurity. You can’t predict how the policies will shift the next day.

Reporter:People often say that the ruthless control of the government is like being hit by iron fists. Have you experienced anything like that?

Hannah: Multiple times. For example, your post online might suddenly disappear for no reason. Or all of a sudden, you couldn’t post anymore. Or they could simply delete your account, and you have no way to appeal.

Apart from censorship, most of the pandemic control measures, including daily PCR tests, the health code system — it’s all ridiculous. If a sudden policy change creates any inconvenience for you, there’s nothing you can do. Think about the recent banking scandal in Henan. You have no power if similar things happen to you. For me, I didn’t want a depressing life like that, so I chose to get out. There’s nothing I can do to change the system.