In China, tensions are rising as hundreds of protestors demonstrate against the government’s plan to implement coronavirus lockdown measures.
Offline demonstrations are uncommon in China since authorities discourage meetings and the government constantly monitors them. As an alternative, residents participate in virtual demonstrations, using innuendo and fabricated codes and dates to maintain their dissatisfaction. Users have recently inundated pro-government hashtags supposedly with veiled comments and even invented new languages. During the lockdown in Shanghai, internet demonstrations have centered on human suffering, food shortages, and censorship. President Xi has vowed to uphold the contentious zero-Covid policy, which few voices have questioned.
As self-censorship has become a survival instinct, internet criticism has increasingly focused on local issues rather than broader government policy; those who dare to criticize the leadership had labeled anti-China. China’s achievement in controlling Covid-19 before wealthier Western nations contributed to increased nationalism. The propaganda machinery fueled anti-Western sentiment on the internet, where President Xi Jinping’s regime has spent years consolidating control. To keep the Voice of April video online, protestors devised inventive methods to incorporate it in photos that censors would not flag. The Chinese government punishes sites like Weibo and Douban for millions of dollars for censorship violations.
Eric Liu, a former Weibo censor, claims that sudden online outbreaks of rage are exceedingly expensive for the platforms. Tencent introduced WeChat Channels to compete with Douyin, the Chinese counterpart of TikTok. In an authoritarian nation such as China, even expressing rage and displeasure may pull people together. The online outpouring of anguish in response to Li Wenliang’s testimony enabled individuals to voice their outrage, even if it was ultimately deleted. “Many people still remember you,” one user said on Li’s Weibo profile in early May.
Residents were witnessed being pulled from their houses and forced to enter quarantine facilities by authorities in hazardous gear. Paloma was able to go to another Chinese city in May, where she has liberated after two further weeks of isolation.