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China: Shanghai residents vent online at COVID-19 situation amid censorship

ANI | Updated: Apr 23, 2022 21:43 IST

Beijing [China], April 23 (ANI): Amid strict lockdown measures, breakdown of supply chains, food shortages and increasing COVID-19 cases, the residents of China's economic hub of Shanghai are venting online even as government censors try to control the flood of critical comments pouring in.
To mitigate the spread of the coronavirus, Shanghai residents have been trapped at home, while others are stuck in temporary quarantine centres, unsure when they'll be set free, Washington Post reported.
Posts, mostly through the Chinese blogging service Weibo and messaging service WeChat, describe loved ones dying after being given improper care and people starving amid food shortages, Washington Post reported.
China possesses one of the most sophisticated censorship programmes in the world, but it has been unable to keep the furore contained within its borders, the report further said, adding, it's unclear just how people are escaping strict censorship protocols to share videos of life in Shanghai and questions remain about whether China's censorship regime will eventually stifle dissent.
"I've been asked by journalists this question many times. You know, 'Is this the tipping point?" Wang Yaqiu, a senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch said of the country's internet dissent. "It's happened so many times before...There's always this uproar. But the government always comes in and contains the situation," he added.

"Oftentimes, when a post goes viral, it's usually the night time. There are fewer content moderators doing their job. It's usually those times when these things go viral, and then the next day, when it's 8 am the sensors come in to start to clean off the internet," Wang told Washington Post elaborating on why China's strict censorship regime is finding it difficult to contain the critical comments.
"Also, people do clever things to try and send a message," he added, "People try to reference other things, like movie titles and ironic uses of words..."
The sensors later catch on and then start to censor the new things. Then the next thing comes up to imply criticism of the government almost like a cat and mouse game, Wang explained.
The senior researcher highlighted that Shanghai being a large city and the financial centre of China also plays a role in the ineffectiveness of censors as prominent people live in the city who have more of a following. "It's easier for their message to go viral," he said.
After an abrupt rise in COVID-19 cases in Shanghai in March, the city authorities sealed off the entire metropolis. .
China enforces a strict "zero COVID" policy which requires the spread of COVID in any area to be totally contained in order to lift restrictions. (ANI)