When the Pressure Becomes Unbearable

Liling Mo considered moving abroad the day she learned about the Great Firewall, which the Chinese government has used to monitor and censor the online information of its citizens since 2013. She said she doesn’t understand why the government has to control everything in her life. The last straw came when she challenged community officials on pandemic control measures during the lockdown in Shanghai. After that, the mental pressure was overwhelming for her.

My name is Liling Mo. I’m 25 years old. I used to work as a clinical coordinator at Shanghai Ruijin Hospital. Now, I’m in Chiang Mai, but this is just a leisure trip. I will reside in Bangkok.

I actually started to think about moving abroad when I was in college, since I came to know there was the Great Firewall. I just didn’t get it. Later, the government enforced more control on online speech and the gaming industry. It’s ridiculous to me. Why? Why is there a Big Brother controlling every aspect of our lives? I just didn’t like it, and I started to think about moving.

Also, I am not a fan of Chinese education. Whether it’s in high school or college, it’s always been kind of depressing. I remember our class president in college — he really wanted to be a Communist Party member. In order to join the party, he basically followed the teachers everywhere they went. … But his attitude towards his peers was drastically different from that towards the teachers. … He just bossed them around. He wants power, longs for power. I don’t understand that desire, but that’s how he is.

I arrived in Shanghai in December 2021, and within a few months, there was the whole city lockdown. During the lockdown, I actively started to research ways to emigrate, how to get out as soon as possible.

During the lockdown, we had to do a PCR test every day. We did daily tests, yet while the whole neighborhood had been following the order, we had increasing positive cases by the day.

Later on, I got annoyed. I really didn’t want to be tested daily, so I stopped going downstairs to get tested. The officers from the neighborhood community came to bang on my door, then they used speakers and broadcast to the whole neighborhood, saying that I didn’t do the test and I needed to do it. After a few days, I had no choice but to go downstairs to take the test.

They were not happy. They said that I should be more cooperative and said I didn’t put myself in their shoes. I was so mad. I asked if they ever considered our feelings. I asked them, ‘Why do we need to do a PCR test every day? Where’s the official document? Who is giving the order?’

When I was confronting them, I felt I was super cool. I finally said what I wanted to say. But afterwards, I became really afraid. They are the neighborhood committee, and I’m just an average citizen. The country was still in lockdown at the time. Who knows if they would make my life difficult in the future? I was really afraid … until the pressure became unbearable. At that moment, I said to myself, ‘I have to leave.’

My last day at work was October 13 [2022], and I flew to Thailand on October 19th. I heard that people in Thailand are very friendly. … It’s true.

And it’s free. You don’t have to wear masks, and you don’t have to do COVID tests. Because I worked in the hospital before, I had to be tested every day. In Shanghai, you have to wear a mask everywhere, otherwise, any security guard can come over and ask you to put on your mask. They would come over and say, ‘You have to wear a mask in public.’ But in Thailand, there’s no restrictions anymore. There’s more freedom.

Of course, I still want to see more places. If China opens up again, I still want to go back and visit my family. But I don’t want to live in China anymore. I want to go to Canada, America or northern Europe. … I want to go to more countries.