“When people from other places come to Wuhan now, they would have the feeling that nothing has ever happened here,” said Ai Xiaoming, sitting in a book-filled study of her home in the heart of China’s coronavirus outbreak last year. January.
“They don’t seem to know anything about the dead or the feelings of families,” said the 67-year-old writer and documentary filmmaker. “The [Chinese] the media rarely reports on these issues. There is no place for these people to tell their stories. “
Ai was one of three writers censored for sharing diaries on major Chinese social media platforms during the 76-day blockade of Covid-1
Ai and Fang Fang, 65, were often censored for their fierce calls for freer speech and for local officials to be held accountable for keeping residents in the dark in the month before Wuhan’s sudden lockout on January 23, 2020.
However, most of their diary entries were simply aimed at sharing personal thoughts and raising awareness about the plight of neighbors, volunteers and health workers.
Another writer, 29-year-old Guo Jing, has been repeatedly censored for sharing content aimed at raising awareness of cases of domestic violence, isolation and the heavy burden of family responsibilities that fell on women during the period in the Hubei provincial capital.
Ai, who previously registered HIV-infected villagers and corruption that led to the collapse of schools in the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, had her WeChat account – the ubiquitous social media platform owned by technology giant Tencent – permanently turned off during locking.
Wang Fang, who writes under the pen Fang Fang, is the most famous of the three. She Wuhan’s diary was published in English last June, although it also caused problems for her at home after strong nationalists persecuted her for publishing the account abroad.
Initially, her diary publications were read and shared by millions in China, but the recordings began to be censored. “Political correctness is so high priority that when we are in crisis, even crying and mourning are considered [to be] bringing shame to the country and delivering the sword to the outside world, “she told Observer.
In his lock diary, the Wuhan resident described his constant battle with censors and commentators when he published excerpts from his diary on WeChat and Weibo, the Sina-owned social media platform. And while she was constantly censored, other voices attacking her were allowed.
Although Fang Fang’s WeChat and Weibo accounts were not suspended, they were still blocked from time to time, she said.
Selectively blocking some types of speech, while allowing other “crazy” speeches to thrive, is an obstacle to further reforms and opening up in China, she said. “The consequences of this will naturally be dangerous,” she said.
Fang Fang said publishers in China have stopped publishing works for which a contract has been signed, including her latest novels, although previously published books can still be found in bookstores.
“For a professional writer, the inability to publish and publish his works is a very cruel punishment,” she said.
This sentence, of course, pales in comparison to the four-year sentence handed down by a Shanghai court to a 37-year-old lawyer who became a citizen journalist Zhang Zhang on December 28. Zhang was convicted of “picking up quarrels and causing trouble” by reporting from a locked-in Wuhan and posting videos and snippets of information on YouTube, Twitter and other social media platforms.
In China, the government requires journalists to carry press cards distributed by the state and bans most independent journalists. This is another layer of censorship that is not often disputed.
“Zhang Zhang has shown by his actions that all these rules are ridiculous,” Ai said. “She is not interested in any of them. In this sense, she is a kind of person who does not belong to this or the last century, but to the future. She is so brave. “
For feminist writer Guo Jing, who also faced difficulties in publishing reports during and after the outbreak, suffering from censorship and punitive speech had the cumulative effect of changing what people thought they could discuss on and off. offline.
“I think the horror of censorship is that it leads to self-censorship and everyone censors each other,” Guo said. “It’s like, Hey, someone froze your account to post this and that, maybe you shouldn’t post stuff like that,” they say.
The other main aspect was the ever-changing definition of what is sensitive or not and the vague rules about what can be said. “We never know what the standard is,” she said.
As for the guilt of Chinese social media platforms in censorship, the writers agreed that they played a major role, but in the end it all came down to the authorities ordering the download or demanding that certain topics be controlled.
“Social media platforms want traffic, so deleting hot topics wouldn’t be good for them either,” Guo said.
Asked by Observer To comment on why writers’ publications have been or continue to be censored, Tencent replied: “Tencent’s mission is to create platforms for users to connect and communicate openly. Tencent is governed by local laws governing Internet content, and we comply with all regulations and laws in the countries and markets in which we operate. “
The son did not respond to such requests for comment.