“A month after the outbreak in Shanghai, I saw a lot of people speaking out online, but most of them disappeared after a short time,” the video’s creator posted on WeChat Friday. “However, some things should not have happened and should not be forgotten.”
The personal fortunes, told in the voices of residents and covered in black-and-white aerial footage of the city’s silent skyline and empty streets, touched the hearts of millions of Chinese internet users as the video spread like wildfire across social media platforms on Friday. . evening.
But for the Chinese government, the six-minute clip — and the chaos and suffering it exposes — is too powerful a reminder of the human cost of its zero-covid policy, which authorities insist “the people and their lives are come first.”
The censorship sparked protests. Many were outraged by the authorities’ attempt to wipe out what they see as objective documentation of the dark reality of the lockdown — one that is rarely found in state media.
An online backlash ensued, with users defiantly joining a social media relay and sharing the video in every possible way to circumvent censorship. Some turned the video upside down, others put it in cartoon clips, and some distributed it via QR codes and cloud services. Censors struggled to keep up — as soon as they blocked one version of the video, another popped up, and the mouse and cat game continued into the wee hours of Saturday.
Some even shared a clip of the song “Do You Hear the People Sing,” a protest song from the 2012 film Les Misérables.
The outburst of anger reminded many of the public outcry two years ago after the death of Li Wenliang, a Wuhan doctor who was punished by police for alarming the coronavirus and died of Covid-19.
The online protest is the latest sign of growing discontent over the harsh Covid containment measures among the residents of Shanghai, as well as people in other parts of China who have watched the crisis unfold with horror on social media.
But instead of easing lockdown measures, Shanghai authorities have tightened their determination to reduce cases outside designated quarantine areas to zero.
In the city’s Pudong district, epidemic prevention authorities have ordered “hard quarantine” in communities under the strictest level of lockdown — namely those who reported Covid cases in the past week — before Sunday, according to an official guideline circulating online. . On Saturday, Chinese social media was flooded with photos of workers in white hazmat suits installing green fences outside apartment buildings in Shanghai.
The dysfunction and chaos of the lockdown in Shanghai has alerted residents of other cities.
In Beijing, residents rushed to run errands on Sunday night amid a new coronavirus outbreak described by officials as “urgent and grim.” The Chinese capital registered 19 new local cases on Sunday, bringing the total in the city to 60 since Friday.
Chaoyang, one of the city’s largest districts, announced it would launch three rounds of mass testing for those who work and live in the district. Many fear that stricter restrictions, such as a lockdown, could soon be introduced if more infections are detected.
Photos and videos shared online show long lines and empty shelves at Beijing supermarkets and “sold out” signs on grocery delivery apps. On Weibo and Wechat, articles advising on what kinds of foods and everyday essentials to stock in the event of a lockdown went viral.
“Everyone is panicking at the fruit shops and supermarkets in Beijing. The instant noodle section is completely empty,” a resident said on Weibo Monday. “The psychological shadow Shanghai has brought us may not disappear for a long time to come.”