Chinese censors have been ordered to flood social media with positive posts about the northwestern region of Xinjiang in an effort to dampen complaints about food shortages in the region.
Millions of people in at least 30 regions of mainland China have been placed under total or partial lockdown under the communist government’s “zero Covid” policy, which aims to curb the coronavirus at every outbreak.
Ili Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture (also known as Yili), home to nearly 4.5 million people, was placed on lockdown in early August without any official announcement.
The prolonged lockdown has left local people without food and medicine, forcing them to share their grievances on the Chinese social network Weibo.
To drown out complaints, censors were told to “launch a comment flood campaign,” according to a leaked directive published by the China Digital Times.
“All internet comment organizational work units are required to carry out comment flood work at the relevant times… the time period in question is 8pm to 10pm tonight “, says the document, translated by the US-based organization.
“There are no subject restrictions,” the directive stated, asking the army of Internet commenters to post content including “home life, daily parenting, cooking or personal moods.” .
The document prevented “all internet comment staff” from posting at a rapid rate.
Following the order, food and cooking videos were circulated on Weibo. Netizens, however, were quick to address the posts, prompting commenters to make their accounts private.
“All these posts about Yili scenery and food are from alternative accounts. Good job, g*v*rm*nt. Have you ever heard of keeping some dignity?,” asked one Weibo user.
China has been urged to reconsider its Covid policy after the World Health Organization warned it was an unsustainable course of action earlier this year.
On September 7, a pregnant woman complained that she was more than nine days past her due date, bleeding and at Xinhua Hospital for five hours when they announced the hospital’s closure. “There are eight to nine pregnant women waiting here. Where are we supposed to go, what are we supposed to do,” the woman wrote, according to the blogging website. What’s on Weibo.
“We have been closed for 40 days and yet they opened the tourist areas,” lamented one resident. “Children who have a fever of 40 degrees can’t even see a doctor, pregnant women can’t even enter the hospital, we really can’t take it anymore.”
A now-deleted video posted on Chinese social media showed a man shouting: “I’ve had enough.”
Local authorities in Xinjiang apologized for the supply crisis on Friday after widespread outcry.
Earlier this month, the UN human rights office released a report accusing the Chinese government of violating the rights of Muslim Uighurs and other ethnic minority groups in Xinjiang.
The 48-page document claimed that serious human rights violations have been committed against Uyghurs in the name of “the government’s implementation of counter-terrorism and counter-extremism strategies”.
Beijing rejected the report, calling it an assessment based on “disinformation and lies fabricated by anti-Chinese forces.”