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Police in China stop citizens at random, forcing them to delete protest photos, Western apps

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Chinese police are reportedly stopping people to search their phones for foreign apps like Twitter, Telegram, and Instagram, which are being used to communicate and organize anti-Covid measure protests.

The Wall Street Journal claims that the searches are happening at transportation hubs in Shanghai. However, other reporters are saying that it’s also happening in other cities. The searches happening in other cities are random and they are happening to anyone and “anywhere from on the street or at entrances to shopping malls.”

Chinese residents are accessing the banned foreign apps through virtual private networks (VPNs) to communicate and organize protests against the country’s strict zero-Covid policies. This is something that Apple helps the Chinese Communist Party enforce by banning all such apps on iPhones. On Chinese social media, content referencing the protests are heavily censored.

Additionally, spam accounts, allegedly created by people with ties to Beijing, are flooding Twitter to discredit legitimate reports about the protests.

According to DW News’ William Yang, authorities in Beijing are recording the personal information of people caught with foreign apps on their phones and giving them a warning. Yang added: “If they face resistance, police would say they could report the person.”

Chinese police are also allegedly forcing people to delete photos of protests from their phones.

BBC China Bureau cameraman Edward Lawrence captured police forcing people to delete photos of protest from their phones along a road in Shanghai where large protests happened over the weekend. Lawrence was arrested and apparently assaulted by the police while covering the anti-government protest.

The recent round of protests all over China was triggered by the death of 10 people after a fire started in an apartment building in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang province, last week.

Some residents alleged that the strict lockdown in the city, that was enforced in August, caused the deaths, because authorities determined when people were allowed to leave their homes. It was also alleged that the lockdown and other pandemic-related measures delayed the response by the fire department.

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