China’s censors deleted critical coronavirus articles and social media posts even if they had been written in Morse code or KLINGON to avoid detection

  • Chinese re-created deleted articles in Morse code to test censorship levels 
  • Even those typed out in Klingon from Star Trek films were eventually deleted 
  • China faces widespread criticism for supressing how COVID-19 started in Wuhan
  • Here’s how to help people impacted by Covid-19

Chinese social media users who noticed censors had deleted articles criticising the country’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak re-created them in Morse Code – and they still disappeared. 

China has faced widespread criticism after authorities in the city of Wuhan reprimanded whistle-blowers who sought to raise an early alarm about the virus, prompting accusations that the cover-up may have fuelled the pandemic. 

One deleted article about the situation in Wuhan that caused particular outcry was typed out again and re-posted by dozens of social media users in 10 languages in a bid to test out censorship levels.

They posted it in Morse code, wrote it out in ancient Chinese script and even typed it out in Klingon – the fictional language used in the Star Trek universe – to see what would happen.

But despite their best efforts, they had all soon vanished.  

Pictured: Life goes back to a new state of normal in Wuhan, China, where the coronavirus outbreak started 

The Chinese authorities have also clamped down on citizen-journalists reporting on the pandemic’s effects.

China expelled 13 US journalists with the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal  in February who were among foreign outlets reporting extensively on the coronavirus in China.

Beijing said the move was in retaliation for new restrictions on the number of Chinese nationals who can work for its state-run propaganda outlets on US soil.

But the expulsions have prompted alarm, with media organisations and the three newspapers warning that the action imperils ‘access to critical information’ about the pandemic.

Chinese freedom of expression has always been tightly controlled by the Communist Party but that grip has become suffocating under Xi.

China has faced widespread criticism after authorities in the coronavirus origin city of Wuhan (pictured yesteday) reprimanded whistle-blowers who sought to raise an early alarm about the virus, prompting accusations that the cover-up may have fuelled the pandemic

A Chinese court last year sentenced ‘cyber-dissident’ Huang Qi, whose website reported on sensitive topics including human rights, to 12 years in prison for ‘leaking state secrets.’

Space for independent discussion has shrunk further this year as Xi’s government has sought to deflect blame for the virus, which scientists believe emerged from a wild animal market in Wuhan.

Ren Zhiqiang, an outspoken Chinese Communist Party critic and millionaire property tycoon, was detained after he penned an essay fiercely critical of Xi’s response to the outbreak.

Three Beijing-based internet activists also have disappeared and are believed to be held by police for archiving censored coronavirus news stories online, a relative of one of the activists said this week.

It comes after Beijing’s parks and museums including the ancient Forbidden City reopened to the public yesterday after being closed for months by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Forbidden City, past home to China’s emperors, is allowing just 5,000 visitors daily, down from 80,000. And parks are allowing people to visit at 30 per cent of the usual capacity.

Chinese paramilitary police wear protective masks as they guard the entrance to the Forbidden City in Beijing yesterday 

One Beijing resident said this visit felt different than others, when the Forbidden City was more crowded. ‘When walking in some areas without others around I felt like getting back to the history,’ Bian Jiang said.

Large-scale group activities remain on hold and visitors must book tickets in advance online, according to Gao Dawei, deputy director of the Beijing Gardening and Greening Bureau.

Photos on social media showed visitors to the Forbidden City wearing face masks and being escorted by police along designated routes.

Beijing on Thursday downgraded its level of emergency response to the virus from first to second tier, but temperature checks and social distancing remain in force. 

China on Friday reported 12 new cases of the virus, six of them brought from overseas, and no new deaths for the 16th day. It has reported a total of 4,633 deaths from the virus among about 83,000 cases, mostly in the central city of Wuhan.

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