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8 Apr 2022

Greg James, SupChina

China: Weibo removes hashtag about food shortages in Shanghai as locked-down residents go hungry

Despite Shanghai authorities’ assurances of providing necessities to the 26 million people confined to their homes, residents of China’s most-populous city have been struggling to keep hunger at bay under a strict COVID-19 lockdown that was originally meant to last only eight days but has been extended indefinitely.

For starved residents disappointed by the local government’s outbreak response, the Weibo [owned by Sina] hashtag “Buying groceries in Shanghai” #上海买菜# served an important emotional and practical purpose at a time of crisis: It allowed people to air their grievances — and to share tips for securing food and to call attention to those in urgent need of help.

Now, the acute problem of food shortages isn’t getting any better, but the hashtag has already been wiped from the Chinese internet. […] Weibo users noticed that the hashtag had suddenly become inaccessible. Currently, when you search Weibo for the hashtag, you are given a message saying that “no results can be found.”

The backlash was quick and intense, with many Weibo users decrying the decision as an attempt by the platform to silence negative comments about the situation in Shanghai, and possibly an indication of the Shanghai government’s unwillingness to address the hunger emergency. […]

Although it’s unclear whether the censorship was prompted by a government mandate, many believed that it was triggered by a directive (in Chinese) issued today by Shanghai’s internet watchdog, in which officials ordered social media and messaging platforms like Weibo to ramp up their efforts to curb the spread of “false and misleading information” about the ongoing outbreak in Shanghai. The Shanghai office of Cyberspace Administration of China, the central internet regulator, also urged social media users to “distinguish rumors from facts.”

[…] In the past two weeks, with grocery stores shut and deliveries restricted, many Shanghai residents confined to their homes voiced their frustration over food scarcity. […] [Also mentions Meituan]