“The internet connection in my home was cut off for several days. I kept on calling the mayor’s hotline, but nobody is taking care of us,” said a resident of Wuhan City, Hubei Province, where the coronavirus (COVID-19 virus) outbreak began.
Since Feb. 11, more and more Wuhan residents reported that their home internet connections were down. Wuhan authorities have issued strict quarantine measures to contain the outbreak, including allowing only one person per household to leave their homes.
The Chinese-language Epoch Times (CET) spoke with several Wuhan residents and found that some neighborhoods, where there are large numbers of reported COVID-19 virus infections, have had their internet cut off.
Commentators believed that the authorities are using this method to restrict netizens’ ability to talk freely about the situation on the ground. Since the outbreak in early December 2019, about 70 percent of the officially reported cases of infection are in Wuhan.
No Internet Connection
Several interviewees told the CET that their residential areas began broadcasting messages via loudspeakers installed on lampposts that their internet connections would be cut off soon, starting from the evening of Feb. 10.
A Wuhan resident who lives on Jiangdi Zhong Rd. in Jianghan district posted on social media that his home internet connection was cut off on the afternoon of Feb. 11. He checked with other neighbors who lived nearby and confirmed that their home internet connections were also cut off.
“Where I am, it’s close to the makeshift hospital at the Wuhan International Expo Center. It looks like everyone in our community lost their internet connection,” the resident complained.
A Wuhan resident who lives in Jiang’an district told the CET on Feb. 19 that his internet connection has not been restored. He has resorted to using his cell phone to surf the internet.
Zeng Jieming, a U.S.–based Chinese activist, told the Chinese-language Epoch Times on Feb. 19: “I have two friends who live in Wuhan. One lives in Caidian district, and the other lives in Jiangxia district. Both of them said their internet connections were down … They were told [by the communist regime] that there were too many rumors online, which [the regime claimed] severely interfered with the outbreak relief efforts.”
According to Zeng’s friends, the outbreak in Caidian and Jiangxia districts is severe. Local authorities are afraid that people will expose the truth about the outbreak to the outside world by posting videos online, they said.
Gu He is an observer of internet censorship in China. He told the Chinese-language Epoch Times that such tactics are par for the course for the Chinese regime.
“As early as 2009, the Chinese government cut off the internet in the whole Xinjiang region, [and confined it] to a local area network for 312 days,” Gu said. “It uses this method to control people’s speech.”
The internet blackout in Xinjiang, home to 25 million people—many of whom are Uyghur Muslim minorities—was reported by several human rights groups and media at the time. Chinese authorities acted in July 2009 after a series of violent riots took place in Xinjiang’s capital city Urumqi. The internet was restored in May 2010.
Since Wuhan was locked down on Jan. 23, netizens have begun making social media posts exposing the actual situation on the ground. They are exposing the different symptoms the COVID-19 virus causes. They are showing poor medical conditions in local hospitals, highlighting skyrocketing food prices, showing dead bodies being collected from people’s homes. There are videos of police forcibly sending people to quarantine centers and exposing the poor conditions at those quarantine centers, including lack of food, water, and medical treatment; and people hopeless about their possibility of recovering from the illness attempting to end their lives.
Internet censors have since begun cracking down on such posts, even deploying a troll army to write positive posts about the authorities’ outbreak-fighting efforts.