Chinese internet users get creative to dodge Covid censorship

From quoting the national anthem to referring to Hollywood’s great stories and George Orwell’s dystopian novel “1984”, Chinese internet users are using creative methods to avoid censorship and express dissatisfaction with Covid’s actions.

China maintains a tight grip on the internet, with censor legions scouring jobs that give a negative view of Communist Party policies.

The censorship machine is now in full swing to defend Beijing’s zero – Covid austerity policy as the Shanghai business center will endure weeks of lock – in to combat an outbreak.

Stuck at home, many of the city’s 25 million residents have turned to social media to express anger over food shortages and spartan quarantine conditions.

Charlie Smith, co – founder of the censorship monitoring website GreatFire.orgHe said the Shanghai lockout had become “too big a question to be able to carry out full censorship”.

Picture – iStock

There was no choice but to send out their messages, and brave internet users were doing tricks such as flipping images and using wordplay, he said, using a pseudonym due to the sensitivity of his work.

In one example, censors destroyed a popular hashtag on Weibo’s social media platform quoting the first line of a Chinese national anthem: “Arise, those who refuse to be slaves.”

The line was split alongside a torrent of anti-lock stirrups.

Others have hijacked a hashtag because human rights in America failed to make language-in-boob barbs in childbirth in China.

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In a similar effort, the netizens came together to push Orwell’s “1984” fiction to the top of a popular title list on the Douban rankings site, before it was blocked.

Internet sensors also raced to kill managerie memes and hashtags based on a government official who previously said foreign journalists were “secretly loving” about the fact that they had safely seen the pandemic in China.

The users then created a series of oblique portfolios on that quota, which eventually prompted the censors to block the hashtag “La La Land”.

‘We are against the AI’

Last month, Internet police cracked down on a viral video of the “April Voices” video featuring haunted and locked-up stories from Shanghai residents.

Web users quickly reorganized and shared the clip six minutes to go beyond the largely automated screening software, which struggled for hours to identify the different versions.

One local Shanghai who was frustrated said that the netizens were sharing the various formats “to make a point” even though all jobs were gone within minutes.

“We were against the AI,” the resident told AFP, asking for anonymity.

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People in Shanghai have become increasingly “willing to pay the price” for expressing critical views, said Luwei Rose Luqiu, an assistant professor at Hong Kong Baptist University.

The “hardship, dissatisfaction and anger” they suffered during the lockout is “far more important than fear” of the punishment for posting sensitive material, she told AFP.

Gao Ming, 46, said he received calls from police last month telling him to delete anti – lock posts on Twitter and Facebook, which are blocked on the internet in China.

But the public relations professional has so far refused, telling AFP he is “against censorship” and wants to spread a debate on China’s Covid strategy.

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Hong Kong | Photo by Peter PARKS / AFP

“I am totally opposed to the current policy,” he said, arguing that the lockout was caused by unnecessary deaths by cutting access to regular medical care.

At a meeting on Thursday, Chinese leaders pledged “relentless” adherence to zero-Covid and “resolutely fight against all words and deeds that distort, question or deny our nation’s disease control policies”.

The positives and “private difficulties aside” have been raised by the state media, said a Beijing – based journalism professor who asked for anonymity.

The approach has created “two Shanghais”, where there is a stark contrast between official performances and what people see online, the professor said.

The Communist Party’s online anger is unlikely to provoke its hard-line approach, especially with the country’s president so invested in zero-Covid, said Yaqiu Wang, a senior Chinese researcher at Human Rights Watch.

“It’s harder for the government to step back when it comes to XI Jinping’s personal ideological issue,” she said.

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