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Chinese censors, police go after list of Shanghai dead, zero-COVID critics

Ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP)-backed censors have deleted an online list of people who died as a result of the Shanghai lockdown, and blocked the URL after internet users saved it to a blockchain-based site.

“They did not die of COVID-19, but because of it,” the introduction to the list on the Airtable collaboration platform — which uses blockchain technology — said. “They should neither be ignored, nor forgotten.”

The site showed “incomplete numbers” of more than 152 people whose deaths were believed to be directly linked to the CCP’s zero-COVID policy and stringent lockdowns that have dragged on in Shanghai for weeks.

Searches for the list yielded no results on Weibo on Monday, with one repost of the Airtable URL to the social media platform yielding a notice that read: “This content cannot be viewed at this time.”

Among dozens of others, the list names Qian Wenxiong, a former official at the Hongkou district maternal and child health center, as having committed suicide; Zhou Shengni, a nurse at the Dongfang Hospital, as having died of an asthma attack; Wei Guiguo, vice president of Netcom Securities, as having died of a cerebral hemorrhage; and “Captain Zhao,” a security guard at the Changning Hongkang Phase III residential community, as having died of overwork.

Several suicides are recorded in the list, many as a result of people jumping from tall buildings.

“Someone put the list of the dead onto the blockchain now, because the authorities deleted the post titled ‘Shanghai’s Dead’ yesterday,” internet user Zhou Ni told RFA. “It can’t be deleted, but the website has been blocked in China, so people there can no longer see it.”

“Anyone in China will have to circumvent the Great Firewall to see it,” Zhou said.

Meanwhile, Shanghai-based rapper Fang Lue, known by his stage name ASTRO, said he had taken down a video of a song he wrote about lockdown titled “New Slave.”

“I am very grateful yet nervous that my song “New Slave” has been getting a lot of attention in recent days,” Fang wrote in a statement posted to his YouTube channel.

“I had essentially  hoped to use this song to call for more reflection and debate about the particular time we are living through and the problems we are having,” he said. “It was never my intention to bring up unfounded criticisms.”

“I was told that there have been some reposts and appropriations of my song on other social platforms, alongside messages that are a long way from what I wanted, so I have deleted my public video of New Slave on YouTube,” Fang wrote.

The song’s lyrics included the lines “When freedom of thought and will are imprisoned by power … when people who aren’t sick are locked up at home and treated as if they are sick, yet those who are truly sick can’t get into a hospital … it stinks; the stench of rotting souls fills the air.”

“Open your mind, just open your mind,” Fang sings. “How much guilt and pain does the prosperity of skyscrapers cover up?”

Before it was deleted, “New Slave” had gone viral on China’s tightly controlled internet, with commentators saying this kind of social commentary was exactly what rap should be doing, and supporting Fang to carry on writing and performing.

The CCP has banned hip-hop from social media since the beginning of the year, and its propaganda and cultural officials have ordered entertainment platforms to avoid any “non-mainstream” cultural performances characterized as “decadent” by its directives.

Protest slogans have also been popping up on the streets of Shanghai in recent days, according to photos posted to Twitter, one of which riffs on a common notice left in place of deleted content by censors: “This content can’t be viewed due to violations [of relevant laws and regulations].”

Others have simply complained that “People are dying,” or referenced the “list of the dead.”

Meanwhile, vice premier Sun Chunlan was found to have filmed some of her reported “visit” to Shanghai on the roof of the headquarters of a state-owned enterprise, rather than in Menghua Street, as claimed in the official footage.

And rights activist Liu Feiyue was summoned by local police for questioning after he criticized COVID-19 restrictions in Suizhou.

Liu was suspected of “violating supervision and management regulations,” according to the Zengdu branch of the Suizhou municipal police department, according to a copy of the summons uploaded to Twitter.

He was ordered to go to the Dongcheng police station at 9.00 a.m. Monday local time for questioning.

Liu Feiyue, who founded the Civil Rights and Livelihood Watch website, was convicted of “incitement to subvert state power” on Jan. 29, 2017 after giving interviews to foreign media. He was sentenced to five years in prison, deprived of political rights for three years, and had 1.01 million yuan of personal assets confiscated. He was awarded the 9th Liu Xiaobo Writers of Courage Award in November of the same year, as well as the 13th Writers in Prison Award from the Independent Chinese PEN Association.

Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.