World Health Organization director censored for questioning China's zero Covid strategy

China didn't like being told what to do one little bit and the lockdowns in Beijing and Shanghai will go on, as Asia Editor Debi Edwards reports

There is an invisible army in China watching and waiting to attack. The enemy can be anything or anyone.

Their job is to make sure they disappear. Together they protect and bolster the Great Chinese Firewall.

The thousands employed every day to delete, obstruct and disable parts of the internet have been busier than ever lately.

Trying to prevent the wider population from seeing the terrible scenes, including deaths, in Shanghai.

Yesterday, the World Health Organization director general found his own comments censored.

Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who has been criticised for being too soft on China, declared that pursuing a zero-Covid strategy is not sustainable, given how the virus is now behaving and is expected to in the future.

He said he'd discussed the issue with Chinese experts. He had dared to question the Communist Party's paramount pandemic policy.

The censors quickly kicked in, trying to erase his statement and stop it from being shared among the millions of Chinese social media users.

Even the official pages of the WHO and the UN were censored. When you click on the video on those pages with the Chinese domain, it says the video showing his statement is no longer available.

Chatter on social media sites was equally targeted but in comments sections there were posts ranging from warning Dr Tedros to "stop pointing the finger at China" to messages saying they hoped he had spoken out of kindness and could still be a "friend of the nation".

The blocking of such a story includes a whole array of potential search words that people might use to try to find the story.

And on the topic of Covid, China is currently particularly sensitive.

President Xi Credit: AP

President Xi Jinping last week vowed to "resolutely fight against all words and deeds that distort, question or reject our nation's disease control policies".

Several leading academics and medics have been silenced and had their social media accounts deleted for posting articles questioning the merits of continuing to pursue this pandemic strategy.

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Sites such as Twitter, Google, Facebook and Instagram remain behind the firewall in China.

The only way to access such 'Western' sites is by using a VPN which disguises where you are in the world to establish a secure, unobstructed network.

For instance, I will set mine to being in the UK, US or Japan for using sites, including most news websites, that are commonly used in the UK.

A majority of people in China do not have a VPN; however, in recent years, state media appears to have invested, and now Twitter has become a platform to spread their message to the world, if not their own people.

But the censors are not China's biggest tool against 'misinformation' from the West.

Its most powerful force is propaganda.

Today, the Foreign Ministry responded to Dr Tedros' remarks describing them as "irresponsible" and saying he should "get more knowledge about the facts".

State newspapers and state television will respond by reminding the public of the merits of a policy that the government has successfully sold to the nation as the best in the world, a life-saver.

China still has one of the lowest official case and death rates from Covid-19. For the most populated country on the planet, that is a big sell.