Census data for three counties in China’s southeast Sichuan Province revealed that the population drop during the first year of the pandemic was as high as 22 percent.
China conducts a nationwide census survey every ten years, and local governments update demographic figures on their official website yearly.
The counties of Tongjiang, Nanjiang, and Pingchang, are all under the jurisdiction of Bazhong City, Sichuan Province.
Based on official data, the population of Tongjiang county dropped by 148,700 in the first 10 months of 2020, and neighboring Nanjiang and Pingchang counties recorded a similar situation.
According to the 2020 Chinese census data for Bazhong City, the resident population of Tongjiang County was 521,875 as of Nov. 1, 2020.
The 2019 public notice of census data for Bazhong City, released in May 2020, states that the county’s resident population was 670,600 towards the end of 2019. Compared to the 2020 data, the resident population decreased by 148,700 in 11 months.
Currently, both the 2019 and 2020 Chinese census data for Bazhong City are no longer available on the local government website. However, the internet has memories—China’s search engine Baidu has kept a screenshot of the Bazhong government webpage showing the 2020 census data, published online on June 4, 2021.
Sichuan is a major labor-exporting province, and Tongjiang County follows suit. The county usually sees a large number of migrant workers returning to homes around the Chinese New Year every year.
Due to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020, many migrant workers could not travel to developed regions such as Guangdong and Zhejiang Provinces so chose to work close to home. The rural workers in Tongjiang County were no exception.
Chinese state media reported on stories of migrant workers in the area, including one about Pu Jiahe, a villager from Sanxi Township in Tongjiang County who gave up the idea of working in Guangzhou City and dedicated himself to the growing of Sichuan peppercorn instead.
In addition, more than 470 companies offered over 12,000 jobs to general laborers, accountants, security guards, purchasers, quality inspectors, and warehousemen at Tongjiang County’s online job fair in early 2020. Zhang Yong, director of the County’s employment bureau, told Chinese media that the bureau extended its work hours to offer career opportunities for various groups such as rural workers and college graduates.
In all of China, only 591 people died or went missing due to natural disasters in 2020, according to data from the Ministry of Emergency Management. Based on the regime’s official data, there is no explanation for the sudden reduction of 148,700 residents in Tongjiang County in November 2020.
Neighboring Nanjiang and Pingchang Counties have also experienced a precipitous population decline. However, the 2019 public notice of census data for these two counties is also no longer available on the internet, so the 2018 data was used to calculate the population change.
The resident population of Nanjiang County was 467,609 as of Nov. 1, 2020, according to official census data, while the number of permanent residents in the county at the end of 2018 was 608,600, according to Baidu’s archive page.
When comparing the 2018 population with the 2010 census data of Nanjiang County, it can be seen that there was an insignificant increase of 1,600 people in eight years, from a total population of 606,992 as of Nov. 1, 2010.
However, by November 2020, there was a drop of approximately 141,000 people from the end of 2018—a 23 percent decrease.
According to the official census data, the resident population of Pingchang County in 2010 was 862,620. By 2018, local census data showed that the resident population at the end of 2018 was 790,400.
However, by the time the 2020 Chinese Census was conducted, the resident population of Pingchang County decreased to 658,644.
In short, from November 2010 to the end of 2018, the county’s population decreased by 72,200 people—on average a decrease of roughly 9,000 people every year. In less than two years—from 2019 to Nov. 1, 2020, the population decreased by 131,800 people.
The sudden drop of 148,700 residents in Tongjiang County in 10 months accounted for 22.2 percent of its population.
Why aren’t the Chinese more aware of a 22 percent decrease in the population of its people? Shi Shan, an expert on China issues in the United States, suspects that it is due to the Chinese Communist Party’s strict three-year lockdown.
“People are interacting less with each other and are confined to family and close friends. Business is handled online, and factory workers cannot go to work,” Shi told The Epoch Times. “In addition, China has a large population base and expansive territory. So people don’t seem to feel it.”
Reporting from The Epoch Times.