Looking for a way to circumvent internet security, the Chinese people have started a war against censorship barriers through songs and even their own national anthem to show their disagreement regarding the management of the confinement they are currently experiencing.
China keeps a close eye on the internet, and the censors erase content that presents state policy in a bad light or that can create agitation.
But now censorship must work at full capacity to defend the national “zero covid” strategy, under which most of Shanghai’s 25 million inhabitants have been confined since the beginning of April.
Exasperated by problems with the supply of fresh produce, access to medical care outside of covid cases, and the sending of people who have tested positive for the virus to a quarantine center, many take their anger out on the internet.
For Charlie Smith, co-founder of the GreatFire.org site, which tracks Chinese censorship, the Shanghai lockdown became “an issue so important that it cannot be totally censored.”
Internet users rival in inventiveness and, to avoid censorship of a photo, they slightly crop its edges or invert it as in a mirror. This frustrates the automated filtering program of the censors, which are powered by artificial intelligence.
To avoid censorship, Internet users also use allusions or puns.
Censorship, enemy of Internet users
Anti-lockdown netizens also use other tactics.
For example, they mobilized on the book and movie review site Douban.com, in order, thanks to their online votes, to place the dystopian novel “1984” at the top of the ranking.
Objective achieved, before the censors intervene.
Overwhelmed, the latter were unable to prevent the viral spread last month of a video titled “April Voices”which collected in six minutes stories of Shanghai residents helpless in the face of confinement.
By very slightly modifying this six-minute video, Internet users managed to disrupt the filtering programswhich at first could only identify (and therefore censor) the original version.
The fight lasted several hours before the censors eradicated all versions in circulation. But millions of people had time to watch the video.
Outraged by the censorship, many netizens shared clips of two related songs on the WeChat social network below: “Do You Hear the People Sing?” (from the musical The Miserables) and “Another Brick In The Wall” (by the group Pink Floyd).
The first is a call to rebellion. The second lambasts “thought control” in particular.
The people of Shanghai are “willing to pay the price” to spread critical opinions on the internetexplains to AFP Lüqiu Luwei, a former journalist who teaches at the Hong Kong Baptist University.
“The difficulties, discontent and anger” associated with confinement “far outweigh the fear of being punished,” he estimates.
A 46-year-old Chinese man, Gao Ming, told AFP that the police called him last month to ask him to delete the anti-confinement messages posted on Twitter and Facebookinaccessible platforms from China.
He refused stating that it was “anti-censorship” and “totally against current policy”since the Shanghai lockdown, according to him, caused unnecessary deaths, due to disturbed access to medical care.
public media insist almost exclusively on the positive aspects, while ignoring the difficulties personal of the inhabitants.
But Communist Party reiterated Thursday its support “unwavering” to the “zero covid” policy and called for “fighting against all words and acts that call it into question.”
A relaxation is all the less likely as the Chinese president himself defends this health policy, observes Yaqiu Wang, head of China at Human Rights Watch, orAn American human rights organization.
“It is more difficult for the government to back down when it comes to an ideological issue personally related to Xi Jinping,” he stresses.