How Chinese Netizens Swamped China’s Internet Controls

The tragedy comes as frustration with Covid-free policies has begun to spike. violent confrontation broke out between workers and security at a Foxconn factory in Zhengzhou, where iPhones are made. Scott Kennedy, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a think tank in Washington, DC, said that when he visited Beijing and Shanghai in September and October, it was clear that people were “tired” of the measures such as conventional PCR tests, QR scans of “health codes” to go anywhere, and the constant specter of a new batch of locks. “I’m not surprised when things come to a boil,” Kennedy said. At the beginning of November, the government signaled that some restrictions would be eased soon, but the fire in Urumqi and news of Covid cases increasing again, he said, “pushes everyone who reached the edge of the abyss”.

Like people around the world, Chinese citizens tired of the lockdown took to the phone to express their anger. Their familiarity with censorship and how to avoid it helped fuel the protests and also helped provide the inspiration for what could become their enduring symbol. Protesters keep aloft White paper paper and posting white squares online, a motif many consider at least partly censorship-related. White is also a funeral color in China, and the protests are called “The A4 Revolutionor “white book revolution” 白纸革命.

Protesters have turned to now-familiar censorship evasion techniques, such as posting screenshots to avoid text filters or adding filters to videos before sharing to bypass automatic detection systems. motion. Demonstrations are referred to using coded language such as “take a walk.”

For Chinese netizens, using puns, memes and other tricks to evade censorship is old-fashioned, though they are more often used to grumble or vent to the government than encourage mass resistance. Over the past week, they’ve been posting screenshots of music videos with close subtitles, or ironically The official post is overflowing with comments such as “good” or “correct”.

In the past three years, when the domestic internet has become more popular strict regulationspeople have become more knowledgeable about the use of VPN and US social platforms like Twitter and Instagram to access and spread information, said a Chinese citizen currently in Hong Kong. Telegram chat app and Apple’s AirDrop local file sharing feature provide essential ways to spread information about the protests, although Apple recent edits AirDrop in China so that the phone is only visible to other people nearby for 10 minutes at a time. Collectively, those digital tools have fostered widespread awareness and coordination of the protests taking place across China. The movement showed unusual class and ethnic solidarity, one person in Hong Kong said, with migrant workers, ethnic minorities, feminist groups and students all taking part in the protests. .

At the end of last week, the government’s efforts to crack down on the protests became apparent — both on the streets and on the internet. The Guangzhou tech worker said that on Sunday night as he approached an area where protesters were gathered with signs, about 200 police were also on the scene, scattering through the crowd to stop the groups. large formed. He left but heard that later in the night protesters clashed with police. In the following days, he said, several protesters in the area were contacted by police, potentially using location data collected from their phones. By the beginning of this week, the news line report that the police took action in the mainland cities where the protests had occurred, and in some places they check everyone’s phone for VPN or an app like Telegram.


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