Instead of Ending Poverty, Chinese Communists End Free Speech About Poverty

(p. A1) A heartbreaking video of a retiree that showed what groceries she could buy with 100 yuan, or $14.50 — roughly her monthly pension and sole source of income — went viral on the Chinese internet. The video was deleted.

A singer vented the widespread frustration among young, educated Chinese about their dire finances and gloomy job prospects, like gig work. “I wash my face every day, but my pocket is cleaner than my face,” he sings. “I went to college to help rejuvenate China, not to deliver meals.” His song was banned and his social media accounts were suspended.

. . .

Hu Chenfeng recorded the footage that was removed from the Chinese internet. On popular video sites, he had posted a recording showing an elderly woman living on barely $15 a month. In the words of many social media commenters, he was revealing too much. “This subject is untouchable,” one commenter wrote on a now-deleted discussion thread on Zhihu, a site similar to Quora. Another wrote, “His account was censored simply because he showed what life is like for many people.”

In the video, which survives outside the Chinese internet on YouTube, Mr. Hu interviews the woman, a 78-year-old widow, on the street in the southwestern city of Chengdu. She said she planned to buy only rice, about the only thing she could afford. She hadn’t eaten meat for a long time. Tears rolled down her cheeks as she recounted her financial hardship. The two walk through a grocery store. They bought rice, eggs, pork and flour. The bill came to 127 yuan ($18). Mr. Hu insisted on paying.

He was emotional, too, signing off with “a heavy heart.”

The video was removed from the two biggest user-generated video platforms in China. Mr. Hu’s accounts were suspended.

For the full commentary, see:

Li Yuan. “THE NEW NEW WORLD; China Is Deleting Poverty, One Video at a Time.” The New York Times (Monday, May 8, 2023): A1 & A6.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date May 4, 2023, and has the title “THE NEW NEW WORLD; Why China’s Censors Are Deleting Videos About Poverty.”)

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