Chinese citizens have found a way to criticise the government online over its strict Covid control measures without facing censorship.
Covid cases have surged in China’s Guangzhou, making it the Covid epicentre. (Photo: Reuters)
By India Today Web Desk: Chinese citizens, reeling under harsh Covid lockdown measures, have found a way to vent their anger online without posts critical of the government being taken down within hours.
Posts on Chinese social media website Weibo using Cantonese slang, instead of Mandarin to criticise the government’s zero-Covid policy, seem to have evaded censorship, at least for now.
But how? Perhaps because Weibo’s content censorship system has difficulty recognising the way Cantonese words are written and spelled, many posts with bold language still survive.
However, if the same content is written in Mandarin, it is likely to be blocked or deleted, according to a report by US-based independent media monitoring organisation China Digital Times.
In nearby Cantonese-speaking Hong Kong, anti-government protesters in 2019 often used Cantonese wordplay both for slogans and to guard against potential surveillance by mainland China.
The posts in Cantonese, which originated in Guangzhou’s surrounding province of Guangdong, is spoken by tens of millions of people across southern China.
China restricts criticism and discussion on its tough Covid control measures online and people are now relying on dialects and even emojis to get past censorship. The frustration with several rounds of mandatory Covid testing, snap lockdowns, quarantine and extensive contact-tracing is now hidden in emojis and Cantonese words.
Earlier, Weibo had said it would refine its keyword identification model to be able to filter coded language, but experts wonder if the company can really keep pace with online slang in China.
CHINA EASES CURBS
China on Friday eased some of its strict Covid rules, including shortening quarantines by two days for close contacts of infected people and for inbound travellers, and removing a penalty for airlines for bringing in too many cases. The easing comes even as case numbers in China surge to their highest since April.
By contrast, infections have surged in Guangzhou, making it the country’s Covid epicentre.