A recent pro-democracy demonstration in Beijing, where a protester hung banners on a bridge in the capital city which directly attacked the current ruling party and President Xi Jinping, has been scrubbed from Chinese social media and online services in general ahead of the Communist Party Congress on Saturday.
The demonstration included banners on an overpass in Beijing, which called for the removal of Coronavirus restrictions and demanding democratic reforms. “Say no to Covid test, yes to food. No to lockdown, yes to freedom” one of the banners says. Another directly calls out the president, stating “Go on strike, remove the dictator and national traitor Xi Jinping.”
On Weibo, any content that includes the terms “Beijing,” “bridge” and “brave” cannot be searched from, and Apple Music’s Chinese version has removed a song titled “Sitong Bridge,” as this is the location where the protest happened.
Users of WeChat however, have been facing a different fate, as they have found that their accounts have been banned for sharing images such as ones in the Tweet below. These have been listed as permanent bans as well, without any room for lifting.
This has led to desperate users flocking to Weibo and posting messages asking for the bans to be lifted. Messages have included content such as “I lost my control, and sent sensitive statements in a group chat…” and “I won’t let down the party and the county.” The majority of the messages have been posted with a hashtag for Tencent Customer Service.
This isn’t the first time where users of online services in China have faced strict censorship on subjects that the ruling party disagree with, with Microsoft and Google having features removed when it’s relevant to events in the past, particularly around the anniversary of the events of Tiananmen Square in 1989. It further goes to show the measures that the Chinese government take to scrub mentions of any peaceful protest against the ruling party.
Tencent have declined to comment on this, and at the moment there has been no confirmed number of users who have been banned since the demonstration took place.
Source: MIT Technology Review