From across the Pacific, U.S.-based singer-songwriter Zhang Gong, also known as “Crazy Zhang,” received demands to delete his music from Twitter, with Chinese authorities saying that his satirical songs “[have] a negative impact” on the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leadership, Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported.
Officials from multiple Chinese-based organizations, especially China’s Cyberspace Administration, have bombarded Zhang with calls to purge his Twitter profile of his music, as part of their draconic “long arm” of repression.
“Hey everyone, it’s Crazy Zhang here — it’s been mad the amount of people who have been calling me on the phone in the past few days,” Zhang said in a Twitter video.
“They have been demanding that I delete all of my music from Twitter, and to delete my Twitter account,” he added.
“When I asked them on whom, they said they didn’t know, but that there was a directive that came down from the central government calling on them to contact me immediately and to demand that I delete everything.”
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The police even threatened to start “criminal proceedings” if Zhang did not follow through with their threats. Yet, he refused to comply, telling RFA that he vows to continue making his music for all to hear online.
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Lyrics of a lockdown
During the 2022 lockdown in Shanghai, Zhang shared a video of himself singing a song about the insufferable conditions and fates of millions of citizens being corralled into mass testing and quarantine camps. The song was titled “Seven Storey Pagoda,” based on “the preciousness of human life.”
“In a city of 1.4 billion people, the voices of despair rise and fall,” the song goes.
“I see children, bodies wrapped in foam and ice,” Zhang sings.
“I hear cries of help from people trying not to die in a fire,” the song continues, referencing the fire that struck Urumqi, the regional capital of Xinjiang, where the “white paper” protests began.
The “white paper” protests, which sprang up early in 2023, involved demonstrators holding up blank sheets of paper, representing how they were censored, while chanting slogans like, “We want human rights,” and, “Down with the Communist Party!”
The song then referenced the many fences set up to restrict the populace.
“How many human lives are trapped behind… the iron sheets they just welded into place this afternoon?”
It also referenced official propaganda about premier Xi Jinping’s troubles as a younger man.
“He shouldered 200 pounds of wheat for 10 miles through the mountains, yet he wants to lead 1.4 billion to their deaths.” Zhang sings, adding, “If we don’t fight, then death is inevitable.”
Zhang has also written an earlier protest song titled “Surrounded,” which is about the massive lockdowns that occurred in China over the course of the pandemic.
“They’ve locked down the hills, locked down the rivers, locked down the sky and sun,” the song goes.
“Locked down the sheep and cattle, the harvests and grain silos, the cities and the countryside.”
In conversation with RFA, Zhang said his lyrics were only aimed at the government “indirectly.”
Born in the province of Henan, China, Zhang grew up in the province of Shandong, where his passion for music grew. He even opened a music school there, specializing in classical guitar.
One of many tired of China’s zero-COVID policy and the economic fallout that came after, he joined the “run movement,” which saw many nationals find a perilous smuggling route through Latin America and into the tedious process of being integrated into the United States.
“There were so many tragic things happening around me every day, and so much injustice happening to people,” Zhang said. “I’m a pretty emotional person, and I kept thinking that this could happen to me at any time, anywhere, and to my family.”
“Things have been totally hopeless [in China] in the past few years,” he added.
Though now safely in the U.S., awaiting political asylum, Zhang’s wife is left in China. She has had all of her social media accounts closed by authorities.
“My wife called me last night and said that all of her social media accounts were shut down within a second of each other — WeChat, Xiaohongshu, Bilibili, everything,” Zhang said.
“She doesn’t even have a phone number anymore.”