Minitrue: Keep Firm Grip on Messaging Over Shanghai COVID Relaxation

The following censorship instructions, issued to the media by government authorities, have been leaked and distributed online. The name of the issuing body has been omitted to protect the source.

At 18:00 this evening, [city government account] Shanghai Announces revealed forthcoming changes on entry and exit for residential districts, public transit operation, private vehicle usage etc from June 1. All media, please promptly republish to widely inform city residents. In reports, take care to keep a firm grip on messaging; titles and content must be precise, to avoid ambiguity or misreadings. Use methods like promoted comments to vigorously roll out online guidance and secure the understanding, cooperation, and support of the city masses. Specific requirements are as follows:

1. Do not use the phrase “ending the lockdown.” Unlike Wuhan, Shanghai never declared a lockdown, so there is no “ending the lockdown.” All parts of Shanghai underwent static management-style suppression and suspensions, but the city’s core functions kept operating throughout this period. Emphasize that related measures were temporary, conditional, and limited. The resumption on June 1 will also be conditional: it is by no means the case that every person in every district across the whole city will be able to freely head out at once, nor that this is a uniform relaxation. Reports should not play up “comprehensive relaxation” or “comprehensive [return to] normality” …. (May 30, 2022) [Chinese]

This apparently incomplete directive comes as Shanghai authorities announce an end to two months of heavy restrictions as “the epidemic situation in our city has been effectively controlled and the situation continues to improve.” The easing follows similar relaxation of Beijing’s more limited controls late last week. Despite the success of Shanghai’s restrictions in containing the outbreak, their sometimes draconian and arbitrary implementation sparked public frustration and suspicion that absolute, unyielding prioritization of COVID control had more to do with politics than public health. Fencing installed to help enforce the controls is already being removed, though many milder restrictions on activities and businesses will remain in place.

The directive’s mention of “static management” offers a glimpse of the sometimes bewildering proliferation of jargon, slogans, and euphemism spawned amid this wave of controls. CDT last week translated a compilation of these terms, from “Dynamic Clearance” to “Temporarily Distance Oneself from Stressors,” that had been deleted from WeChat for unspecified policy violations. Another of the lockdown’s linguistic contributions is the phrase “we’re the last generation,” a Shanghai resident’s instantly iconic retort to a police officer’s warning that non-compliance with COVID control rules would haunt his future descendants. This exchange was captured in one of many similar videos that circulated amid the lockdown. Audio from several of these was compiled in a wildly viral and quickly censored video titled “Voices of April,” which was translated by CDT and targeted by a previously published directive.

Shanghai’s size and economic and cultural prominence ensured that its restrictions drew widespread attention, but many other cities across and China have faced similar conditions. A pair of CDT translations in mid-May described long lockdowns in China’s border towns. Another set in April highlighted the plight of Chinese truck drivers forced to navigate a shifting and unpredictable mosaic of disparate local rules while working to ease supply shortages across the country.

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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