Bayer fires Australian Chinese employee after she breaks home quarantine in Beijing

Society & Culture

An Australian Chinese woman has lost her job at the German pharmaceutical giant Bayer after viral videos showed her confronting Beijing police while breaking home quarantine.

The clips shared on Weibo on March 16, which have since collectively amassed over 20 million views and nearly 1 million likes, show the woman — identified by the German company as Ms. Liang — ignoring police officers’ directives to go home after being caught going out without implementing protective measures.

In the videos, Liang, who says she returned to Beijing on March 15 after traveling outside China, can be seen running in the street in a workout outfit. When asked by a cop whom she bumps into to “stop,” Liang ignores the order and keeps running away.

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The initial encounter, captured on video by the police officer, takes around six seconds. Judging by a second clip, the cop brought a few colleagues to wait outside Liang’s apartment. Liang was apparently caught off guard by the presence of law enforcement officers. “Help! I’m being harassed!” she is shown shouting. She then demands to see senior authorities. When told by a cop that she has violated home isolation rules, Liang responds, “I need to run. I need to exercise. Who will take care of me if I get sick? Will you?”

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A third video shows the police officers having a conversation with the woman at her door, persuading her to undergo a 14-day home quarantine for herself and for the sake of public health. After checking Liang’s Australian passport, the cops tell her that she is subject to the coronavirus guidelines issued by the Chinese Ministry of Public Health, which requires people arriving from overseas — including both Chinese citizens and foreigners — to isolate themselves for at least two weeks. (As of Monday, those who arrive from overseas are subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine at a designated hotel; Liang got in the day before, so she was only required to quarantine herself at home.)

At one point in the video, Liang says that she felt intimidated because of the “bad attitude” of the officers, criticizing them for “blowing things out of proportion.” In response, a cop questions Liang’s intention of returning to Beijing, as the coronavirus has spread globally and sent countries worldwide under lockdown. “Why did you return to China? Did Australia take good care of you? Only your home country is responsible at this time,” the cop says.

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The clip has blown up on social media, and the response has been overwhelmingly negative. One called (in Chinese) Liang “a piece of trash” who thought she was above Chinese laws because she had Australian citizenship, while others asked authorities to file criminal charges or deport her.

After the clips went viral, Liang’s employer, Bayer, released a statement (in Chinese) on March 17 announcing that she had been fired.

“We always comply with laws and regulations in the countries where our local offices are located. We also firmly support Chinese efforts to curb the epidemic,” Bayer said, adding that all of the Bayer employees in China need to abide by coronavirus rules implemented by local governments.

Bayer’s swift response to the controversy has been widely applauded by Chinese internet users, who strongly condemned the Beijing police for being too soft on Liang. “The government is so embarrassing! The police officers failed to hold Liang accountable. I’m glad that Bayer decided to enact its own regulations,” a Weibo user wrote (in Chinese).