People in Shanghai are turning to NFTs to register the COVID lockdown and fight censorship.

Unable to leave their homes for weeks, many of the city’s 25 million residents have erupted online, decrying the draconian lockdown measures and difficulties obtaining food, and telling difficult stories, such as those of patients unable to obtain medical treatment.

This has intensified the game of cat and mouse with China’s censors, who have vowed to step up internet policing and group chats to prevent what they describe as rumors and divisive efforts about the bubbling public frustration of the lockdown.

While some people have continued to publish such content, others are turning to NFT marketplaces like the world’s largest, OpenSea, where users can monetize content and buy or sell it using cryptocurrencies, attracted partly by the fact that the data recorded on the blockchain is indelible.

The culmination of Shanghai’s coinage moment is anchored in April 22, when netizens battled censorship overnight to share a six-minute video titled “The Voice of April,” a montage of recorded voices during the Shanghai epidemic.

As of Monday, 786 different video-related items can be found on OpenSea, alongside hundreds of other NFTs related to the Shanghai lockdown.

On April 23, a Chinese Twitter user who goes by the handle imFong said in a widely retweeted post, “I turned the ‘Voice of April’ video into NFT and froze its metadata. This video will exist forever on IPFS”, in reference to the Interplanetary File System, a type of distributed network.

Like most major foreign social media and news platforms, Twitter is blocked in China, although residents can access it using VPNs.

A Shanghai-based programmer told Reuters he was among those in the city who viewed their effort to keep the video alive as part of a “people’s rebellion”.

He himself hit an NFT based on a screenshot of Shanghai’s COVID lockdown map, showing how most of the city has been sealed off from the outside world.

“Being stuck at home because of the epidemic gives me a lot of time,” he said, on condition of anonymity.

Other content from Shanghai available on OpenSea as NFTs for sale includes Weibo posts containing complaints about lockdown measures, images from inside quarantine centers and artwork inspired by life under confinement.

Simon Fong, a 49-year-old freelance designer from Malaysia who has lived in Shanghai for nine years, began creating satirical illustrations about life under lockdown in the style of Mao-era propaganda posters.

He started monetizing them in NFT, having been on the market since the end of last year, and has now managed to sell nine of his works for an average price of 0.1 ther ($290)

His plays include scenes featuring PCR tests, as well as demands for government rations by locals.

“I chose the Mao-era propaganda style for these plays because some people say the lockdown situation is setting Shanghai back,” Fong said.

Although China has banned cryptocurrency trading, it sees blockchain as a promising technology and NFTs have gained popularity in the country, being embraced by state media and even tech companies like Ant Group and Tencent Holdings.

The prolonged lockdown of Shanghai, China’s financial hub, is part of Beijing’s controversial “zero COVID” strategy, a policy that poses growing risks to its economy

The Shanghai COVID outbreak, which began in March, is the worst China has seen since the pandemic’s first months in 2020. Hundreds of thousands of people have been infected in the city.

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People in Shanghai are turning to NFTs to register the COVID lockdown and fight censorship.

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