Protests stretch China’s censorship to its limits

By | November 30, 2022

The New York Times reports:

In one video, a man sarcastically sings a patriotic song. In another, a group of protesters hold up blank pieces of paper and chant in unison. In a third clip, a group of mourners light candles around a vigil to those who died in a fire while in lockdown in western China.

Signs of organized dissent are relatively rare in China; so is their survival in the country’s digital space. China’s censorship apparatus — the most sophisticated of its kind in the world — has hunted down and deleted countless posts on social media showing the eruption of protests and anger at the government.

On Wednesday, it was unclear the extent of the protests, in part because of censorship, but new videos emerged of clashes the night before in the southern city of Guangzhou. Workers and residents resisting a Covid lockdown in an industrial district tore down barricades and threw bottles at riot police officers, as a top official in Beijing was ordering a crackdown on “sabotage activities by hostile forces.”

Yet over the past few days, as Chinese people frustrated by severe Covid lockdowns have taken to the streets, videos of the marches and rallies have continued to surface on Chinese sites such as WeChat, a chat app, and the short video sharing app, Douyin. Experts say the sheer volume of video clips has most likely overwhelmed the automated software and armies of censors China has tasked with policing the internet.

“This is a decisive breach of the big silence,” said Xiao Qiang, a researcher on internet freedom at the University of California, Berkeley. [Continue reading…]

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