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China punishes over 1,100 social media accounts of gov’t Covid handling critics

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(TibetanReview.net, Jan08’23) – China has imposed punishments, ranging from temporary to permanent bans, on the holders of more than 1,100 accounts on the Chinese social media platform Sina Weibo for having criticized or questioned the make-believe official narratives on the Covid-19 pandemic situation in the country, according to the scmp.com and the AP Jan 6. Some of these accounts have millions of followers.

The reports said they were punished for alleged online “personal attacks” against Chinese health experts and “inciting conflict” over the government’s handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The popular Sina Weibo social media platform said it had addressed 12,854 violations including attacks on experts, scholars and medical workers and issued temporary or permanent bans on 1,120 accounts, said the AP report.

The company “will continue to increase the investigation and cleanup of all kinds of illegal content, and create a harmonious and friendly community environment for the majority of users,” Sina Weibo has said in a statement dated Jan 5.

The move came days after Beijing’s security chiefs warned of zero tolerance against activities that “use the pandemic … to disrupt social order”, noted the scmp.com report.

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Weibo has not specified the exact transgressions that sparked the punishments. As a matter of fact, the platform, which boasts half a billion active users, is known to be heavily censored under government orders.

One of the largest accounts suspended in the latest censorship wave was stated to be that of Liu Chun, senior vice-president of Phoenix New Media, a Hong Kong-listed mainland company. He has more than 12 million followers.

The move also came as China is now facing a surge in cases and hospitalizations in major cities and is bracing for a further spread into less developed areas with the start of the Lunar New Year travel rush, set to get underway in coming days, noted the AP report.

The end to mass testing, a highly limited amount of basic data such as the number of deaths, infections and severe cases, and the potential emergence of new variants have prompted many countries to institute virus testing requirements for arrivals from China.

The World Health Organization has expressed concern about the lack of reliable data from China.

AP cited Chinese authorities as saying that since the government ended compulsory testing and permitted people with mild symptoms to test themselves and convalesce at home, it could no longer provide a full picture of the state of the latest outbreak.

Nevertheless, the Chinese government maintains that the situation is under control, and rejects accusations of a lack of preparation for reopening. This is despite the fact that hospitals and crematoriums are widely reported to be overwhelmed, with even people entitled to priority in admissions not getting hospital beds.

The enormity of the pandemic’s silent spread could be gauged, in part, from the fact that in late December, two flights from China to Italy brought in almost 100 Coronovirus-infected passengers; about half of one flight and one-third of another tested positive, reported the washingtonpost.com Jan 7. It is not surprising, therefore, that more and more countries are imposing stricter policies on arrivals from China which fully opens up for international travels from today.

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Meanwhile prominent Chinese academics have faced a huge backlash online for their studies on how Marxism can help fight Covid-19, with critics accusing them of wasting time and money at a time when the country is battling a surge in infections, reported the scmp.com Jan 6.

The report cited analysts as saying these ideologically motivated projects and others dedicated to studying the Communist Party’s achievements were unlikely to contribute anything meaningful to the public policy debate and were likely to increase public resentment.

An article on a conference last month focused on studying “the great spirit of fighting Covid-19”, posted on the social media platform WeChat by a college dedicated to studying Marxism, triggered such strong public outcry that it had to be delete, the report said.

The study of the “great anti-pandemic spirit” was among 130 approved in April last year by the National Office for Philosophy and Social Sciences, as “major projects” related to the Sixth Plenum of the 19th Party Congress, a party conclave held in autumn 2021. All were funded by the state-run National Social Science Fund of China, the report noted.

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