In a recent article, VICE News describes how Chinese authorities are cracking down on people that are critical of the communist country’s handling of the coronavirus epidemic. The tactics include sending messages that appear to be from users’ friends asking for their specific location and other details.
In an article titled “Here’s How China Is Hunting Down Coronavirus Critics,” VICE News outlines how Chinese communist authorities are cracking down on citizens critical of the country’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak. In one instance, a Chinese citizen in the United States received scrutiny solely for publicly providing information on the virus that may not have been public knowledge in China.
VICE News writes:
Joshua Left, a 28-year-old entrepreneur who runs a self-driving car startup in Wuhan, China, arrived in San Francisco in mid-January for a vacation, just as the first reports of a new “SARS-like” virus outbreak in China reached the U.S.
He almost immediately began worrying about his family back in his hometown of Wuhan, where the disease appeared to originate, and where panic was starting to set in. Concerned that his family might not be getting information on the scale of the burgeoning epidemic, he posted messages on his WeChat account sharing information he was afraid were not available inside China.
“But then things started to get weird,” he told VICE News.
Left, who asked not to be identified by his full Chinese name, said he first received a warning message from WeChat administrators. Then he began receiving strangely specific messages that appeared to come from four of his friends on WeChat, all asking him for his location, what hotel he was staying at in San Francisco, what his room number was, and what his U.S. phone number was.
Then his cell phone received a warning message that someone in Shanghai was trying to log into his account.
Finally, when he wouldn’t tell them where he was staying, the same accounts all simultaneously began urging him to return to China as soon as possible.
The Chinese citizen referred to by VICE as “Left” told journalists that he believes that his friends sent the messages after being influenced by agents from the Ministry of State Security in an attempt to force him to reveal his location. Left now fears for his life and is in hiding in California and is unable to return to China due to fears that he will be arrested.
One of the co-founders of GreatFire.org, an organization that tracks China’s online censorship, told VICE News, using the pseudonym Charlie Smith: “This is not a typical or common censorship scenario for the Party. They do recognize the need to share information that would help stop the spread of the coronavirus, but so many people are upset at how the spread of the virus is being handled that the authorities are struggling to figure out what should be censored and what should not.”
VICE News notes that following Chinese President Xi Jinping’s first public comments about the crisis, on January 20, censorship efforts by the Chinese government ramped up significantly.
Read more at VICE News here.