China blocks viral WeChat post criticizing tough Covid policies

BEIJING: A social media post that questioned China’s Covid policies was removed and the author blocked after it went viral on the country’s WeChat platform Tuesday — speaking to growing public concerns about Beijing’s stance, and the continuing sensitivities over criticism of its outlier approach.
The post was removed after it garnered 100,000 hits, the maximum number publicly revealed on WeChat, the ubiquitous messaging app owned by China’s Tencent Holdings Ltd.
The unidentified author, whose WeChat account has now been blocked, raised a string of questions addressed to the country’s National Health Commission, including why China continues to impose such tough Covid restrictions when other parts of the world — including Hong Kong — enjoy conditions much closer to, if not matching, the pre-pandemic period.
“Audiences at the Qatar World Cup are not wearing masks or required to have PCR test results available with them — aren’t they on the same planet we live? Doesn’t the Covid virus hurt them?” the person asked.
Among other challenges laid down to the authorities:
*Making public the fatality rates of Covid omicron variants
*Comparing death rates with common influenza and explaining why Covid should be considered differently
*Assessing the cost of continuing with the Covid Zero policy in the event the virus cannot be eliminated
*Explaining the utility of continuing with multiple rounds of mass tests
*Detailing the criteria for restrictions and controls to be removed, and stating whether the measures will remain indefinitely in the absence of scientific and objective standards
*Spelling out what the concerns are on the mainland at a time when Hong Kong is in a near-normal state after easing curbs some months ago, without that city having suffered a run on its medical resources
*Explaining why people keep getting infected after having being vaccinated, and stating clearly whether the vaccines are effective
The article was widely reposted by WeChat users before it was deleted. The account that carried it has been blocked, with a pop-up message saying that WeChat received complaints and determined the post “violated related rules.”
The incident comes amid rising public discontent with China’s Covid approach, which remains highly restrictive despite orders this month from top leaders to make it more targeted. Officials have instead tightened controls in some areas, leading to reduced mobility as consumers stay at home. Economically important areas such as coastal Guangdong province, as well as cities including Chongqing and Beijing, are seeing a rapid rise in cases.
While ongoing Covid lockdowns are fueling public anger and protests, direct and detailed criticism of China’s strategy is rare in the country’s public forums, making this post and the fact it was so widely read before its removal significant. China’s internet and media is highly policed, and videos of demonstrations have been removed from platforms like WeChat in the past.

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