Censors delete discussion of Beijing’s future COVID control


TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) — Digital censors quickly deleted a hashtag “the next five years” Monday as online discussion swirled in response to reported remarks of Beijing’s Communist Party secretary saying that the capital city will normalize pandemic prevention controls over the course of the next five years.

Beijing’s Communist Party chief, Cai Qi, made the remarks Monday morning as part of a report on the Party’s management of the city.

The citywide party congress is held once every five years, ahead of the national level party congress, which is slated for this fall. At the congresses, members generally review the work of the past five years while also announcing goals for the next five years.

“In the next five years, Beijing will resolutely, unremittingly, do a good job in normalizing pandemic prevention controls,” according to a cached version of the remarks in Beijing Daily, the main Communist Party mouthpiece in the capital city.

The city “will implement high quality regular PCR tests, and screening at key points, strictly inspect entries in residential communities, work units and public institutions,” it said.

The current version of the Beijing Daily no longer has the phrase “in the next five years.” On Weibo, the hashtag “the next five years” was deleted. A search for it on the social media platform turns up a notice saying the topic could not be displayed “according to relevant laws, regulations and policies,” a common error message for topics deleted by the app’s censors.

Since a surge of cases driven by the omicron variant in April, China has made mass testing requirements even more frequent. In Beijing, residents are now required to hold a negative test from within the last 72 hours to enter any public venue, including restaurants and offices.

Across the city, the government pushed to set up thousands of testing spots where a person can get swabbed.

Throughout the pandemic, China has stuck to its strategy of “clearing to zero” or “zero-COVID.” It relies on mass testing, surveillance, and strict lockdowns to stop the virus from transmitting widely in the community.

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