China Is Censoring Coronavirus Stories. These Citizens Are Fighting Back.
Information about the coronavirus outbreak is not immune from Chinese censors. But more and more citizens are dodging censorship by creating a digital archive of deleted posts. They told us how.
Minnesota Senator Tina Smith talks to Lawrence O'Donnell about the ongoing protests in Minneapolis following George Floyd's fatal arrest and the importance of her community seeing consequences for the officers involved. Aired on 5/28/2020. China is sending medical expertise and supplies around the world, positioning itself as a potential savior in the fight against the new coronavirus just as the West sinks deeper into crisis. It's a stunning turnaround just weeks after the COVID-19 outbreak emerged in China and began its exponential growth. Is there more to this than meets the eye? Senior figures in Beijing are accused of leading disinformation campaigns aimed at deflecting blame for the outbreak getting out of control in the first place. And experts explain how China's deliveries of medical supplies fit in to a much longer-term project aimed at building its image and influence around the world — particularly in regions such as Central and Eastern Europe, where Beijing's attentions have raised fears it is trying to divide the European Union. With the Western alliance already weakened by the Trump presidency and uncertainty over the unity of Europe, could China turn the disaster of COVID-19 into a major step towards global leadership? The FBI and the government's top cyber security agency warned that China is trying to hack American scientists and companies, including those working on vaccines, which could jeopardize their work. Stu Burguiere say China is always, always lying to us. They keep lying about their COVID-19 data. How many times are we going to catch them in the act before we stop believing them?
Voices like these from Chinese citizens are very rare. People who are willing to speak out about the government’s attempts to control news about the deadly coronavirus. They asked to remain anonymous, because what they’re doing could put them and their families at great risk. But these people are part of a new wave of Chinese citizens, fighting to get the message out in a country that aggressively censors information. Accounts or messages like these calling for free speech are quickly scrubbed from the internet. Or videos like this, showing people frustrated about life under lockdown. [clanging] Posted online one day, but gone the next. But the crisis over the coronavirus is changing the landscape, for now at least. Everyday citizens are preserving and reposting information the government doesn’t want out there. Experts say this kind of digital resistance is happening at a scale they’ve never seen before. Social media networks like YouTube, Facebook and Twitter are blocked in China. But internet savvy people use techniques that allow them to repost censored content to these platforms, while staying under the radar of authorities. They’re creating a visual archive by preserving videos like this one, showing overwhelmed hospitals. [screaming] And they’re reposting people’s personal stories. Some are also turning to less obvious platforms, including GitHub, which is a site mostly used by coders. Another taboo Chinese citizens are pushing back on? They’re making open and widespread calls for freedom of speech. These were triggered by the death of Dr. Li Wenliang. He was an early whistleblower who warned about the virus, and was punished by officials for speaking out. He died in early February from the coronavirus. Right after his death, the hashtag “I want freedom of speech” started to trend on Weibo, a Chinese social media site. Then, it was quickly censored by the government. Dr. Li’s become an icon in the online fight for freedom of speech between censors and citizens. So, who’s winning? For now, citizens are staying a step ahead of the authorities. But a renewed government crackdown could test the strength of this digital resistance.