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Updated Oct 31, 2022, 12:08pm EDT
East Asia

A Bollywood song has become a zero-COVID protest anthem on Chinese TikTok

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Chinese TikTok users are protesting the country’s zero-COVID lockdowns with a song from “Disco Dancer,” an iconic 1982 Bollywood movie with music by the late composer and musical legend Bappi Lahiri.

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In the videos, Chinese social media users dance with empty bowls to “Jimmy Jimmy Jimmy Aaja,” a song that featured the lead character of the movie, Jimmy, played by Bollywood star Mithun Chakraborty.

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When transliterated into Mandarin, the chorus’ lyrics sounds like “jie mi” or “borrow rice” — a reference to residents being barred from leaving their homes to buy food during the strict COVID lockdowns.

Users interpreted the sound of the Hindi lyrics as: “Can I borrow rice? Which home has any? My home doesn’t have rice. Does your home have rice? Take less, you don’t need a lot.”

It appears that the videos on Douyin — China’s version of TikTok — originally evaded censorship, but online monitors began removing uploads after the trend became more popular, according to The Hindustan Times.

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Xi Jinping has vowed to continue imposing lockdowns nationwide despite growing anger and frustration from residents. In Zhengzhou this weekend, video captured employees at a Foxconn factory escaping the facility after authorities appeared to have ordered workers to quarantine in place. Officials also suddenly closed down Shanghai’s Disneyland, prohibiting visitors from leaving until they produced a negative COVID test.

The Bollywood protest song is another example of how Chinese social media users engineer creative images, puns, and text to circumvent online censorship. Discussions like the #MeToo movement can be heavily regulated online, and users have turned to emojis to convey messages about it.

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