Minitrue: Silence the “Voices of April” Viral Video on Shanghai Lockdowns [Includes Full English Subtitles and Transcript]

The following censorship instructions, issued to the media by government authorities, have been leaked and distributed online.

BJWX notice
Latest instructions:
All platforms, please refer to [attached] examples and perform comprehensive clean-up of video, screenshots, and other content related to “Voices of April.” At the same time, clean up any derivative images. Please submit preliminary clean-up data by 12:30 a.m. on April 23. Maintain continuous cleanup and submit additional data by 7:00 a.m. on the 23rd. (April 22, 2022) [Chinese]

Issuing party: GDWXB

More details: NG2022042200612

Based on the attached samples, leaving no gaps in coverage across XS, all videos related to or involving “Voices of April” are barred from being posted or reposted, without exception. Please report back on progress by 12:00 a.m. (April 22, 2022) [Chinese]

These notices relay directions from the Beijing and Guangdong Cyberspace Administrations—“BJWX” and “GDWXB” are abbreviations for Beijing Wangxin[ban] 北京网信[办] and Guangdong Wangxinban 广东网信办, respectively. The timing and similarities in the language suggest that they both originate from the national Cyberspace Administration of China. The Guangdong notice leaked from Tencent Music Entertainment—”XS” refers to an internal corporate division. The Beijing notice’s provenance is unclear, but it appears to be a similar internal corporate memo.

“Voices of April” is a six-minute viral video in which audio clips documenting the ongoing lockdowns in Shanghai play over aerial footage of the city. It begins with a snippet from the now infamous March 15 press conference during which Shanghai city health officials promised that there would be no lockdown. The video then covers rising case counts, food shortages, stranded truckers, people locked into or out of their buildings, residents hauled off to spartan quarantine facilities, babies and toddlers separated from their parents, and sick or elderly residents unable to receive medical treatment.

The video has been intensely censored on Chinese social media, but widely reposted to YouTube. CDT has archived the video and produced an English transcript, both available below. Users on Chinese platforms have attempted to evade censorship with techniques such as rotating the video or posting mosaics composed of its individual frames, sometimes with “Shanghai 404” superimposed to highlight the ongoing deletions:

One Weibo user composed the following poem about the silencing of the “Voices of April”:

Delete the true voices, but preserve the lying reports
Muffle the mouths that speak, cover the ears that listen
They’re ants, or mustard seeds, or political symbols, but never are they human
What gets put onstage is the praise, the gratitude, the peace
What gets buried is the sobbing, the helplessness, the blood [Chinese]

The frustrations encapsulated in the video have been mounting over the past month, and were sharpened this week amid inconsistent messages from local authorities about when the lockdowns might ease. New restrictions were announced on Friday in a bid to eliminate community transmission. After weeks in which many residents have faced food shortages, complaints circulated this week of spoiled food in some packages distributed by the government. Shanghai officials did promise on Friday to relax some restrictions on truck drivers, whose ordeals in the course of delivering food and other supplies CDT has previously documented. Videos and images of residents defying official workers have met with applause online. One viral audio recording captured a German resident’s profanity-sprinkled phone call with a neighborhood committee translator about the prospect of returning to quarantine based on a 12-day-old test result. A Weibo user commented that “for the first time in history, a foreigner is collectively praised by the Chinese people for bad-mouthing China.” CDT translated another viral call between an elderly man desperate for medical care and a helpless neighborhood committee cadre.

Like “Voices of April,” these other expressions of discontent have faced heavy censorship. The Guardian’s Helen Davidson surveyed earlier information controls, while Human Rights Watch’s Yaqiu Wang discussed censorship surrounding the lockdowns with Pranshu Verma at The Washington Post. “Shanghai is the financial center of China. Prominent people live there,” Wang noted. “They have more of a following. It’s easier for their message to go viral. […] And the lockdown’s not just happening in Shanghai right now, there are many other cities. You don’t hear much from them because the prominent people don’t live there.”

The video, now with English subtitles, and English transcript:

March 15, 2022

Shanghai press briefing on COVID-19

 

On that day in Shanghai, there were:

Five new confirmed local cases of COVID-19

95 new asymptomatic cases

A total of 197 confirmed local cases

A total of 959 asymptomatic cases

 

“At present, Shanghai is not under lockdown.

There is no need to lock down the city now.

In accordance with the current pandemic situation in Shanghai,

we will continue to act based on local conditions …”

 

March 26, 2022

Shanghai press briefing on COVID-19

 

45 new confirmed local cases

2631 new asymptomatic cases

A total of 360 confirmed local cases

A total of 12167 asymptomatic cases

“You may ask: ‘Can’t we just buckle down, and lock down the city for 3 days, 5 days, or a week?’
We cannot. Why is that?
Because this city of ours belongs not only to the people of Shanghai.
Shanghai also plays an important role in the national economy.

I believe that all Shanghai citizens ought to be able to understand the bigger picture.”

 

“Voices of April”

 

April 18, 2022. Shanghai.

 

3084 new confirmed local cases

17332 new asymptomatic cases

A total of 27613 confirmed local cases

A total of 370320 asymptomatic cases

 

April 1, 2022

Call between a citizen and the director of the Pudong New Area Center for Disease Control and Prevention

“It’s just that now …

I’m telling you, we’re running out of sickbeds.

There’s no room at quarantine centers, and no ambulances.

That’s the truth.

Right now, we’re telling people they’re positive, but their health app says they’re negative. 

We tell them to call the 12345 hotline to complain.

What the hell’s going on?”

“Right now, even the comments section of the Shanghai Information Office’s official Weibo account has been closed …”

 

April 1, 2022 

Infants are separated from their parents in quarantine in Jinshan District

 

April 2, 2022 

There is no one to meet a volunteer truck driver delivering essential goods.

“I got here at 4:00 am, and I’m still waiting around.

Are you just going to let these vegetables rot?

And I can’t find any water. Doesn’t Shanghai have convenience stores?

Can’t find anything to eat, either.

I volunteered to do this. For free.

And now I can’t even feed myself …”

 

April 2, 2022

A resident of Dacheng Village, Baoshan District calls the local government office

“Do you know we have friends in Pudong District who received emergency food packages earmarked for the Baoshan district? 

How do you think that makes us Baoshan residents feel?

And then, two days ago, you pull this so-called …”

 

April 2, 2022 

Residents thank medical support teams

“Thank you, Big Whites!

Thank you all for supporting Shanghai!”

 

April 2, 2022

A neighborhood in Gu Village, Baoshan District


“Send us food! Send us food! Send us food!”

 

April 3, 2022

Pudong District

A call between a resident and the neighborhood Party secretary

“We need better policies from the higher-ups, 

so that we can better help our residents.

[crying] Right now we don’t have that.

Do you realize that? We don’t have that. 

This job is wearing me out …”

 

April 6, 2022 

A corgi is “culled” on the streets after its owners are sent to quarantine

“Is he going to beat it to death?
Oh, god …”

 

April 6, 2022

An older woman delivers food to her neighbor

“In this building, we’re all good friends.”

“Thank you, Auntie!”

“It can’t be easy for you, being so far from home.”

“Who says folks in Shanghai aren’t friendly to outsiders?”

“Oh, it’s nothing, really.”

 

April 7, 2022 

A policeman delivers food to a truck driver in Minhang District

“I rustled up a bit of pickled cabbage. Eat up!”

“The police brought me food. Shanghai cops are nice.

I haven’t eaten in days.”

 

April 7, 2022 

No hospitals are willing to accept a seriously ill father in Pudong District

“It’s my dad.

I’ve been getting the run-around since 8:00 this morning. We called an ambulance, and two hospitals turned him away.

I told the residents’ committee, and they said no, the hospitals will definitely take him. That’s where we’re at right now.

There’s nobody to save him or to take charge of the situation.

You’ve got parents, too. How can you treat people like this?”

 

April 7, 2022 

People trapped in a locked-down office building have their food delivery order thrown out 

“Listen, I’m disinfecting the building so I have to throw that in the trash.”

“Why? What are we supposed to eat?”

“Not my problem, I’m just disinfecting…”

 

April 8, 2022 

A woman returning from chemotherapy is denied re-entry to her housing complex

“I got a PCR test and did chemo at the hospital.” 

“He won’t let you back in?”

“The housing complex won’t allow it.”

“On what grounds? She lives here.”

“Take it up with the subdistrict committee, then.”

 

April 8,2022 

Evening in a Pudong District neighborhood 

[Banging of pots and pans]

 

April 8, 2022 

Evening in a Jiuting, Songjiang District neighborhood 

“Send us food! Send us food! Send us food!”

 

April 8, 2022 

A man delivers food to a trapped repairman

“I was planning to bring you this yesterday,

but I was scared we’d infect each other.

Then today, I got to thinking: 

the virus won’t kill you, but starvation will.”

 

April 8, 2022 

Evening in Hongkou District

An elderly woman is stranded outside a hospital entrance, unable to get home

“What can we do? This is so stressful!

It’s enough to make a person sick.”

 

April 9, 2022

Living in an unfinished field hospital 

“Look, this building doesn’t even have a roof.

When we got here, everyone raced to grab blankets,

and claim beds.”

“This place isn’t finished yet, just look.”

“Where’s the bathroom?”
“I don’t know. I’m not a Big White, I’m in quarantine, too. “

“They haven’t even set up the beds yet.

People are just sleeping on the floor.”

 

April 9, 2022, Fengxian District

Residents are prohibited from picking up food deliveries

“So are you going to bring us food, then?”

“You’ll have to wait for an update about that.”

“But in the meantime, we’re starving!”

 

April 10, 2022  a residential complex in Xuhui District

Residents protest being locked inside their housing complex.

“What if a fire breaks out? How can you lock the door?”

“What if a fire breaks out? 

What if a fire breaks out? Answer me!”

 

April 12, 2022

A mother knocks on her neighbors’ doors in the middle of the night, begging for medicine to bring down her child’s fever.

The “120” emergency hotline has a queue of more than 300 callers.. The neighborhood committee has no medications.

 

“My child has a fever.

Ma’am, are you home?

I’m sorry to bother you …”

 

April 13 2022, Xuhui District

Volunteers refuse to put sealing tape on a residential building

“We’re not trying to be uncooperative.

But this is beyond our capacity as volunteers, all right?”

“How can we go on working here as volunteers if we do this to them?”

“If you turn around and change your minds, take that tape off tomorrow, we’ll quit.”

 

April 12, 2022 

An older man, wanting to go to the hospital for tests,  pleads with a member of his neighborhood committee for help

“I called 12345 and the police too, you know?”

“​​I know you have. But did you get any response?”

“There was no response.”

“I have no idea what on earth they’re thinking. Mr. Yu, I’m frustrated that I can’t help you. Right now … if anything, I’m even more heartbroken than you are. You’re just one family, but right now I’m dealing with countless families.”

“Right. I empathize with everything you just said.”

“​​I’ve filed written reports about your situation. I’ve made countless calls.”

“Well, I appreciate it.”

“I’m sorry, Mr. Yu. There’s nothing I can do.”

(sigh)

 

The next day, Mr. Yu was transferred to a hospital by the CDC.

On April 20, a regular press briefing on Shanghai’s COVID situation reported that new cases have been falling for the past few days, and that community transmission has been effectively contained.

May Shanghai recover soon.

 

Video credits:

Aerial photography/editing: Cary

Audio material was sourced from the internet.

Background music for opening credits: “Requiem” by Akira

Music: “Edith’s Theme” by Jeff Russo [Chinese]

With translation by Joseph Brouwer, Cindy Carter, and Alex Yu.

真Since directives are sometimes communicated orally to journalists and editors, who then leak them online, the wording published here may not be exact. Some instructions are issued by local authorities or to specific sectors, and may not apply universally across China. The date given may indicate when the directive was leaked, rather than when it was issued. CDT does its utmost to verify dates and wording, but also takes precautions to protect the source. See CDT’s collection of Directives from the Ministry of Truth since 2011.

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