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China’s internet goes black and white on day of mourning for pandemic victims

Video games and new TV episodes were also put on hold.

Photo by Moritz Schumacher on Unsplash

On April 4, the colorful menagerie that represents China’s app ecosystem—including Meituan’s yellow, Baidu’s blue, and Taobao’s orange—turned monochrome as the country’s internet companies commemorated those that died as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. Additionally, all entertainment services were temporarily suspended.

China’s State Council announced on April 3 that the country would observe a nationwide mourning on April 4 for victims of the coronavirus pandemic, including patients and those “martyrs and compatriots who sacrificed their lives combatting the outbreak.”

The announcement also declared that all public entertainment would shut down for one day, including cinemas, clubs, local recreational events, online games, and most television shows and livestreaming events.

The day coincided with the Qingming Festival, or “tombing-sweeping” day, an annual holiday when Chinese people pay respect to ancestors and loved ones by returning to, and cleaning, their grave sites.

Major gaming companies, such as Tencent, NetEase, and Perfect World all ceased services on April 4, while WeChat’s mini games were also unavailable.

Douyin and Kuaishou also turned their home pages black and white and featured somber photos and videos to commemorate the occasion, with all recommended content being pandemic-related. iQiyi, the online streaming service of search engine giant Baidu, also rescheduled new episodes of TV dramas and reality shows, and livestreaming platform Huya completely shut down its service for the day.

E-commerce platforms including Alibaba’s Taobao and JD.com also turned monochrome.

Short video apps Douyin (left) and Kuaishou (right) adjusted their pages to black and white, and curated pandemic-relevant content. Source: Screenshots of Douyin and Kuaishou

Additionally, the country also observed other traditional mourning ceremonies. At 10 a.m., China Standard Time, the country came to a full three-minute halt as people and cars all stood still as air sirens sounded. Flags across the country and at overseas embassies were flown at half-mast.

The COVID-19 outbreak, which began in Wuhan in December last year, has killed at least 3,331 people in China as of now. Worldwide, over 1,348, 257 cases have been confirmed and 74,795 people have died from the disease in 208 countries and regions, according to the latest data from the World Health Organization.