China Web Users Race to Post Censored Video on Lockdown Troubles

By BLOOMBERG

Chinese internet users rallied to outwit government censors on a video documenting weeks of lockdown in Shanghai, flooding social media feeds as frustration continued to escalate over strict Covid Zero rules.

The six-minute video titled “The Sound of April” was posted on Friday and soon got censored as it went viral. Chinese Wechat users then uploaded the film from different accounts and in various forms including upside-down and mirrored versions until late night, as newly-uploaded clips were also removed.

The film, on a slowly-moving frame of overhead shots of the city in black-and-white, spliced in sound clips from government press briefings, voice call recordings seeking medical help and information transparency, hungry and frustrated residents chanting in unison for government rations, and chats between neighbors and ordinary people helping each other out. 

“Get well soon, Shanghai,” it said at the end, closing with text that it was shot and edited by someone named Cary.

Social media users also circulated a clip of the song “Do You Hear the People Sing?” from the musical Les Miserables, which was first censored during pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong in 2019 and briefly resurfaced in the disarray following the initial outbreak in Wuhan. Other videos included spokespeople from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, quotations from Mao Zedong, clips from revolutionary Chinese films, and citations from the Civil Code – all about a citizen’s right to speak up.

“If anybody asked me why I keep posting these videos, I would tell him it’s because they keep censoring them,” a Wechat user said in a post. 

Shanghai reported higher Covid-19 cases and deaths on Friday, following five consecutive days of declines. The city is entering its fourth week of strict lockdown, while many people have been confined to their apartments for even longer.

Anger among residents has been building due to lack of access to food or medical care and sub-standard government rations, and there has been clashes with police over isolation centersopening near them.

The municipal government on Friday said it would adopt nine actions to achieve the goal of “no community spread,” a milestone that’s eluded the city despite weeks of lockdown. It largely reiterated existing measures in place with a vow to strictly implement rules, disappointing those who expected restrictions would be gradually eased. 

Some users also compared the outpouring of support for “The Sound of April” to the night Li Wenliang, the Wuhan-based doctor who had warned about a SARS-like illness, died two years ago. The public became enraged after the death of Li, an ophthalmologist reprimanded by local police for rumor-mongering after he posted early warnings of the virus. Authorities later honored his death in a bid to mitigate public outrage.