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How Chinese netizens swamped China’s Internet controls

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Expanding / Demonstrators cover their faces with blank slates while protesting against China’s COVID-zero policy in Hong Kong on November 28, 2022.

Anthony Kwan/Getty Images

A week ago, demonstrators took to the streets of the northwestern city of Urumqi to protest China’s draconian restrictions. Zero COVID PolicyA much bigger wave of protests swept across China’s social media that night, especially on the Super App. WeChatUsers shared videos of demonstrators and songs like “Can You Hear People Sing” Les Miserables“Get Up, Stand Up” by Bob Marley, and “Power to the People” by Patti Smith.

In the days that followed, protests spread. A crowd, mostly masked, in Beijing’s Liangmaqiao district held up blank papers and called for an end to harsh COVID policies. At the elite Tsinghua University across the city, protesters held up printed material known as physical formulas. Friedmann equation Because the name sounds like “free man”. Similar scenes unfolded in cities and university campuses across China, sending waves of protests in comparison to the devastating student protests of 1989. Bloody crackdown on Tiananmen Square.

Unlike previous protests, the demonstrations that rocked China over the past week spread across a tangle of smartphones and social media.The country’s government tried to strike a balance between embrace technology When limit the power of citizens Use it to protest and organize, and build broader powers of censorship and surveillance. But last weekend, the momentum of China’s digitally savvy population and their frustration, bravery and anger seemed to break free from government control. It took days to suppress the opinion. By then, images and videos of the protests had spread around the world, proving that Chinese citizens could circumvent the Great Firewall and other controls.

“The atmosphere on WeChat was unlike anything I’ve ever experienced,” says one Briton who has lived in Beijing for more than a decade. “There seemed to be recklessness and excitement in the air as people became more and more daring from post to post, testing the boundaries of government and of themselves.” I saw a post on the Internet in China that I had never seen before. Like, say, a photo of a Xinjiang official bluntly captioned, “Stop.”

Chinese netizens have developed a sense of what censors will and will not allow, and many know how to circumvent control of the internet. Young WeChat users seem to have become apathetic about the consequences of their posts, a tech worker in Guangzhou told Wired.Like other Chinese nationals cited, he asked not to be named because it risks drawing government attention. or on Instagram or twitterto get the word out.

Anti-blockade demonstrations began as an informal vigil for victims of terrorism. Deadly fire in Urumqi, the provincial capital of the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region in northwestern China.the city is Under COVID Lockdown Restrictions Over 100 days, some observers believe it was blocked. Victim trying to escape and it’s late emergency responderMost, if not all, of the victims were members of the Uighur ethnic minority. forced assimilation campaign sent Estimate 1 to 2 million people in re-education camps.

This tragedy occurred at a time when dissatisfaction with the zero COVID policy was already beginning to surge. fierce confrontation At Foxconn’s factory in Zhengzhou, which makes iPhones, a clash broke out between an employee and a security guard. Scott KennedyThe ubiquitous ‘health code’ and the constant specter of new lockdowns at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank in Washington, DC. “I’m not surprised that things boiled over,” says Kennedy. The government signaled in his early November that some restrictions were about to be eased, but the Urumqi fires and news of his COVID cases rising again prompted “people to push past their limits.” he says.

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