Shanghai lockdown: Video censorship angers netizens


On Saturday, a viral video showing the impact of Shanghai’s lockdown on its residents was removed from the Chinese internet by censors, prompting incomprehension and even anger among internet users.

China’s economic capital of 25 million people is facing its worst Covid-19 outbreak since the pandemic began.

Shanghai reported 12 new deaths and more than 23,000 new positive cases, the health ministry announced on Saturday. This was a rebound from the previous day’s nearly 6,000 cases.

Local authorities in particular attribute the new growth to overcrowding in some older residential buildings that share kitchens and toilets.

Almost all Shanghainese have been confined to their homes since early April. Many residents struggle to obtain supplies of fresh produce and see doctors.

A delivery man in front of a fence in a closed area in Shanghai, China, April 23, 2022 (AFP – Hector Retamar)

The six-minute video, titled “April Voices” (“April Voices”), is a long shot of Shanghai from the air.

To these black-and-white images, the authors add a chronological series of voices from press conferences, videos posted on social networks, or residents’ phone calls.

The video begins with the voices of politicians declaring at the start of the outbreak in March that a short-term preventative lockdown was not advisable due to its economic impact.

This initial hesitation led to a surge in the number of positive cases, ultimately triggering the lockdown now expected to last several weeks.

The video presents responses in about two dozen sound clips: a restricted resident unable to get food, medicine, or to go to a hospital; a man prevented from returning to his gated community; or a woman describing the chaos in a quarantine center.

The clip was heavily shared and viewed on the WeChat social network on Friday night. But censors managed to remove all traces of it within hours.

“The author just presented the original facts. Nothing provocative!”, irritated users of the social network Weibo on Saturday, in which discussions on the topic were almost entirely censored.

A health worker in protective gear challenges a resident pushing an elderly woman in a wheelchair onto the street in Shanghai, China, April 23, 2022 (AFP - Hector Retamar)
A health worker in protective gear challenges a resident pushing an elderly woman in a wheelchair onto the street in Shanghai, China, April 23, 2022 (AFP – Hector Retamar)

“There is nothing special about this video. Its content is already known. But seeing the fact that even it is censored bothers me. That’s why I reposted it on my feed,” another user wrote road.

To express their dissatisfaction, many netizens shared on WeChat the music videos of two songs with protest lyrics: “Did you hear the people sing? (from the musical “Les Miserables”) and “Another Brick in the Wall” (from Pink Floyd Band).

The first is a call to resistance. The second specifically condemns “mind control.”

The video is still viewable on YouTube, but the website cannot be accessed in mainland China without bypassing the software (VPN).

In recent weeks, many Shanghainese have denounced various logistical problems and Kafkaesque situations resulting from the imposition of health measures on Chinese social networks.

While many videos are censored, they are often not censored fast enough to prevent them from going viral.

China justified its anti-Covid strategy by limiting the death toll as much as possible. Officially, fewer than 5,000 people have died since the pandemic began.

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