China has consistently censored videos and online discussions about poverty to keep its international image pristine, reports The New York Times.
The report comes two-and-a-half years after Chinese President Xi Jinping celebrated “complete victory” in the effort to eradicate rural poverty.
State media at the time credited Xi’s leadership with lifting nearly 100 million people from poverty, a milestone he declared in December, 2020, and framed as a birthday gift for that year’s 100th anniversary of the ruling Chinese Communist Party.
But the Times report says many people remain poor or live just above the poverty line and documenting those struggles can draw ire from the government.
The Cyberspace Administration of China, the country’s internet regulator, in March pledged that it would “clean up the internet” and fight “hostile forces.”
It also said it would punish anyone who publishes videos or posts that “deliberately manipulate sadness, incite polarization, create harmful information that damages the image of the Party and the government, and disrupts economic and social development.”
China in 2021 defined extreme rural poverty as annual per capita income of less than 4,000 yuan ($620), or about $1.69 a day. That compared with the World Bank’s global threshold of $1.90 a day.
Older people from the countryside received about $27 a month in social security benefits, according to a government report, says the Times.
Hu Chenfeng, a videographer in China, published a video showing an elderly woman living on barely $15 a month.
His account was censored.
“I shot these videos in the hope of making some money while pushing our society to move forward just a little bit,” Hu, the videographer, said in a video posted in a backup social media account that had not been blocked. “But I never expected that this is forbidden.”
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