As Chinese residents’ outrage increasingly escalates due to the poor living conditions under the current lockdown, Beijing authorities apply strict control on public messages and censor social media complaints.
Sun Jian, a 37-year-old master’s degree student in the Chinese city of Yantai, was detained by the police and expelled from Ludong University on April 1 after he was caught carrying a banner saying, ‘lift the lockdown on Ludong’ around the school campus. His social media accounts were all blocked afterward. Previously, he has launched a solo campaign against the university’s epidemic control measures.
In a phone call with Reuters, Sun said, “The trouble brought by the virus can’t be compared with the disruption from some of the anti-COVID measures taken by our school,” citing that the school had restricted students within the campus area while food deliveries were not allowed.
Ji Xiaolong, a Shanghai-based activist, posted a petition named “Cease Campaign-style Lockdown & Hand Out Relief” on April 2 on many domestic and international social media platforms. His petition, also submitted to Shanghai’s public security apparatus, called on the authorities to immediately suspend the zero-tolerance COVID policies.
It also requests that Chinese authorities compensate families whose loved ones perished due to the lockdowns depriving them of prompt medical attention.
Other demands in the petition include “immediately release those detained for exercising their right to freedom of expression during the epidemic.”
Shortly after, authorities took down Ji’s WeChat and Weibo accounts. He said, “[They] tried to pressure my wife and threaten her. And I’ve warned them [about their action].”
Arrests and detentions for COVID-related rule-breaking cases soared in March in China. Reuters, citing state agencies and state media reports across China, reported on April 15 that more than 600 police cases and 150 confirmed arrests were claimed in March.
China’s public security departments also reported a surge in a crackdown on COVID rule violations in March. Accordingly, their Weibo accounts have released 80 notices on behalf of China’s cities and counties, compared with seven in January and 10 in February.
However, BCC reported that many spreading clips have made the censorship work hard to track up. In addition, many Chinese circulate these clips in private group chats to avoid the government’s detection.