Beijing: Censorship specialists in China are worried about the amount of online criticism received by the country after many WeChat users in China saw their contacts post sharp criticism of the country's zero-COVID policy which led to intensified lockdowns, mandatory nucleic acid tests, forced quarantine and more. Specialists wonder how the content got through, according to Directus, a Greece-based publication.

This comes even as Chinese authorities and internet service providers have for years been monitoring and removing online content that contradicts the narrative set by the Chinese Government.

One social media post from November demanded an apology for the fire victims in Urumqi, Xinjiang. The post has drawn attention towards China because the fire victims who were primarily Uyghur, are said to have been killed as a result of the strict lockdown which prevented them from escaping the fire and acted as an impediment to the firefighter's efforts to save them.

Manfred Elfstrom, an assistant professor of political science at the University of British Columbia, reacting to the online criticism, said: "I was startled by how forthright online critics were in their comments when I first observed netizens fighting back against these [zero-COVID] regulations."

"I was particularly moved by the sympathy and support so many people had for the people of Urumqi," he said according to Directus.

Some other online viewers, last week, complained about how the Chinese quarantine facilities were littered with thrash, overcrowded and not sufficiently heated. One internet user said the facilities were only suitable for housing cattle.

"These posts remained on the WeChat Moments page for days in late November and early December, some of which are still there today," reported Directus.

Anthony J. Saich, director of the Rajawali Foundation Institute for Asia at the Harvard Kennedy School, as quoted by Directus, said the social media posts "tapped into a broad sense of discontent across numerous locations."

Recently, Joshua Kurlantzick, a senior fellow for Southeast Asia at the Council on Foreign Relations in an interview with Washington D.C based VOA Mandarin, said that China has been spending huge sums of money on state media outlets China Global Television Network (CGTN), China Radio International (CRI) and Xinhua to try and create these as global competitors and enable these media outlets to define global narratives about China. Most of these big state media outlets have, however, completely failed.

"Since about five or six years ago, China has been trying to build up a global media and information apparatus. They have been trying to have a bigger role in the global media discourse, which they have always felt does not treat China fairly," said Kurlantzick who investigated China's global media investment in his new book, Beijing's Global Media Offensive: China's Uneven Campaign to Influence Asia and the World.