China: Internet censors in overdrive as protests over strict Covid measures erupt in major cities
"China’s COVID protesters, censors play cat-and-mouse game online" 28 November 2022
Chinese internet users and government censors are engaged in a cat-and-mouse game to control the narrative around the country’s anti-“zero COVID” protests.
Protests began in Urumqi, the capital of the far-western Xinjiang region, on Friday following the deaths of 10 people in an apartment block fire before spreading over the weekend to major cities including Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing, Wuhan and Chengdu.
The protests in Urumqi erupted after footage posted on social media showed fire trucks spraying water from too far away to reach the apartment building, with internet users claiming authorities could not get closer due to pandemic barricades and cars that had been abandoned by people who had been quarantined.
Videos and photographs of the protests quickly circulated on Chinese social media platforms such as WeChat [owned by Tencent] and Weibo [owned by Sina], where they received tens of thousands of views before being deleted by government censors.
The acts of defiance shared online included scenes of people tearing down barricades, calling for the resignation of Chinese President Xi Jinping, and holding up blank white pieces of paper as a symbol of protest.
By Monday, Chinese social media appeared to have scrubbed searches for protest hotspots like “Xinjiang” and “Beijing”, while posts with oblique phrases like “I saw it” – a reference to an internet user having seen a recently deleted post – were also censored. [...]