Beating 'the Big Silence': Chinese Protesters Use Videos To Overcome Censorship

'Once the anger spills onto the street, it becomes much harder to censor,' says expert

A protest in Beijing / Reuters
November 30, 2022

Mass videos of anti-regime protests across China have shaken the communist dictatorship's censorship apparatus, creating what one expert calls "a decisive breach of the big silence," the New York Times reported Wednesday.

Videos of demonstrators have flooded Chinese sites such as WeChat and Douyin. According to experts, "the sheer volume of video clips has likely overwhelmed the automated software and armies of censors China has tasked with policing the internet," the Times reported.

"Once the anger spills onto the street, it becomes much harder to censor," internet freedom researcher Xiao Qiang told the Times. The government simply can't scrutinize hundreds of videos of protests, shot from different angles, as it can a single viral video, Xiao noted. Some video posters have also started employing tricks, such as flipping screens, using filters, or taking videos of videos, to bypass censorship.

The Times's report follows two large Chinese cities' announcements that they would ease up on COVID restrictions following clashes between protesters and police.

Protesters across China last week began demanding an end to the regime's zero-COVID policy, which has caused years of lockdowns. A fire last week reportedly killed dozens of people who could not escape a burning building because of COVID-19 regulations.

The demonstrators have gone so far as to call for the downfall of the Chinese Communist Party and dictator Xi Jinping. Shanghai protesters over the weekend chanted, "Xi Jinping! Step down! CCP! Step down!"

Chinese citizens are also figuring out ways to see accounts on blocked sites such as Twitter and Instagram. Twitter videos posted by one anti-regime activist have gone viral in China.

Such viral videos have allowed protests to grow larger, the Times wrote. One former journalist told the paper that he attended multiple protests in Shanghai "after seeing videos on WeChat from his friends at the gathering."