Minitrue: “Win This Smokeless War” Over Online Discourse on Xinjiang Lockdown

The following censorship instructions, issued to the media by government authorities, have been leaked and distributed online.


Notice from the Department of Internet Supervision of Public Security: Effective immediately, no group should transmit any content (including video, audio or text) that has not received official confirmation or that transmits negative energy! Group leaders and managers, please attend to this with diligence and awareness! Any republished material that does not have official confirmation, causes public panic or exerts a negative and malign influence will, without exception, lead to arrest! Cases that reach the level of criminality will be investigated in accordance with the law to determine criminal responsibility and restore social peace and harmony! We are convinced that the Party and the government have the ability and determination to win this war without smoke! Urgent notice! [Chinese]

All Media: Today, nine districts and villages in Yining break out of lockdown, with residents free to leave their homes for scheduled activity periods. Please immediately send reporters to the above-mentioned districts and towns to record scenes of the masses of residents leaving their homes and going about their business, children having fun, and elderly people smiling leisurely strolling through their areas allocated, and package these scenes effectively for advertising broadcasts. At the same time, spread these video clips widely on WeChat, news sites, Douyin and other similar platforms. [Chinese]

The above guidelines i a third published on Friday are part of an effort by local authorities to build a digital Potemkin village that obscures the reality of confinement in Yili, an autonomous Kazakh prefecture in Xinjiang that is experiencing a minor outbreak of COVID. In recent days, the residents of Yili have done just that flooded Weibo with posts detailing the deprivations they have suffered during confinement. By threatening those who share information with criminal charges and “flooding” social media with staged scenes of everyday happiness, the Party and government hope to win a “smokeless” social media war against accounts of Yili residents’ lives under lockdown . Arrest is not an empty threat: Police in Yining, the prefecture’s largest city, announced the arrest of four men who allegedly “spread rumors on the Internet, incited antagonistic sentiments, altered the order of anti-pandemic measures, [which] had negative social repercussions.”

What’s On Weibo has translated snippets of viral posts which involved widespread food shortages and difficulties in accessing medical care. Reports from major US news organizations corroborate the content of many of the publications. “We have been locked in our house for more than 40 days. We lack everything, especially food [….] There are so many difficulties, I want to cry just to mention them”, a resident of Yili he told the Washington Post. The New York Times found it women only have sporadic access to feminine hygiene products and that diapers are equally hard to come by. Yili residents have used a open access spreadsheet to help coordinate mutual aid in the absence of government aid. College students created a similar spreadsheet to help people access medical care during the first days of the Shanghai Confinement. (Shared spreadsheets have also been used organize rescue tasks after the Zhengzhou floods already help tech workers fight exploitation.) Last Friday, regional leaders he partially recognized the clamor blaming local officials for the difficulties caused by the lockdown and offering its “deepest apologies” for the disruptions to daily life.

realBecause directives are sometimes communicated orally to reporters and editors, who then filter them online, the wording published here may not be accurate. Some instructions are issued by local authorities or specific sectors, and may not apply to all of China. The date listed may indicate when the directive was leaked, rather than when it was issued. CDT makes every effort to verify dates and wording, but also takes precautions to protect the source. See the Ministry of Truth’s collection of CDT directives since 2011.

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