Chinese social media users reportedly battled censors on April 22 when they came up with creative ways to spread a video that featured voices of Shanghai residents locked up in their homes as the city struggles to contain an Omicron outbreak.
The six-minute video, titled “Voices of April,” was blocked soon after being posted on Weibo, but users managed to make it viral by changing its name or pasting QR codes in random photos that allowed others to download it.
The video, which shows aerial footage of the COVID-stricken megapolis, begins with remarks from local officials who assured the public in March that a lockdown is impossible.
“We can’t [lock the city down],” one official said. “Because Shanghai is not only home to Shanghai residents. Our city plays an important role in the national economic and social development.”
That pledge quickly fell apart when the city announced a two-stage lockdown from March 28. However, the measure scheduled for eight days has since been extended and is now approaching its sixth week.
“Voices of April” documented voices of different residents, from babies crying as they were forcibly separated from their parents to an elderly woman stranded outside a hospital and unable to get home.
“It’s my dad. The hospitals keep turning him away,” a frustrated Pudong district resident said about his father, who was seriously ill. “The residents’ committee is no help. There’s nobody to save him or take charge.
“You’ve got parents. How can you treat people like this?”
However, the video’s creator, who reportedly goes by the moniker “Strawberry Fields Forever,” has urged others to stop sharing it for unclear reasons. They said they were “touched” by supportive messages they have received but “don’t wish this video to be distributed in the directions I don’t want.”
The creator appears to be concerned about reports of people disappearing after speaking out against authorities.
“A month into the outbreak in Shanghai, I saw many people speaking out online, but most of them disappeared after a short while. However, some things should not have happened, and they should not be forgotten,” they wrote the day the video wrestled against the Great Firewall.
Aside from “Voices of April,” there were other videos that sought to expose Shanghai’s mismanagement of its Omicron crisis. These include “Farewell, Language” and “Shanghai Late Spring.”
“Farewell, Language,” which runs for a mere 42 seconds, shows frontline workers going about their job while an audio containing more than 600 propaganda phrases plays in the background.
“Shanghai Late Spring,” on the other hand, compiles various clips about the lockdown while playing the song “Cheer Up London,” whose chorus begins with “You’re dead, already, dead, dead, already-ready.”
On Friday, Shanghai authorities announced that nearly 12.38 million residents — nearly half of the city’s population — were in lower-risk areas and can thus leave their homes. Still, some 5.27 million people remained in high-risk “sealed and controlled zones” on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Beijing is fighting to control its own outbreak. The city’s Chaoyang district is undergoing three rounds of mass testing this week.