torsdag 26. mars 2020


For nearly three months, Chinese authorities have relied on censorship and propaganda to control the domestic narrative about the COVID-19 novel epidemic. In an attempt to keep the populace calm, early cases in Wuhan were downplayed or ignored. After unsanctioned information shared by Wuhan healthcare providers was labeled “rumor,” those who shared it were punished, while their punishments were reported on CCTV to serve as a broader public warning

When one of those healthcare providers, Dr. Li Wenliang, died on February 7 after contracting the disease from a patient, censors’ best efforts to control relevant online information couldn’t stop web users from calling for free speech online en masse. (Last week, Wuhan police publicly apologized and retracted their criticism of Li hours after top authorities released a report investigating the death.) Once an epidemic was underway, censorship directives guided the media’s coverage. More recently, as further information about the early days of the outbreak in Wuhan and authorities’ censorship of the situation emerged, netizens creatively found ways to preserve it despite the censorship.

With public anger high over Beijing’s official response, state media ensured that none of it would be shown in their coverage of Xi’s first trip to Wuhan since the outbreak began. Some domestic commentators wrote of their disgust seeing official media use their characteristic “positive energy” to cover such a grim situation. Many foreign commentators have characterized Beijing’s censorship as a contributing factor to the massive human cost of the disease and breadth of its spread.