China Watch: Coronavirus is China’s Chernobyl
China Watch: Coronavirus is China’s Chernobyl
In 1986, the world’s worst nuclear disaster occurred at the Chernobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine. And, true to its need for total secrecy, the Soviet Union hid the danger from nearby residents. So while Soviet officials dithered, 50 million curies of radiation fell over the nearby town of Prypiat. What’s even worse is that the USSR had a history of covering up nuclear accidents long before Chernobyl.
Today, in the midst of China’s coronavirus outbreak, we see that its Communist Party is also going into lockdown mode, just like the old Soviets. So coronavirus has become China’s Chernobyl.
As of Friday, the official death toll in China stands at 636, with over 31,000 confirmed cases. But those are the official numbers. The true butcher’s bill is probably much higher.
Chinese doctors explain away the squishy numbers as the result of overworked health care in Hubei Province, where the bulk of the infections occur. Hospitals and laboratories can’t keep up with the demand for virus testing, they say.
But in a totalitarian nation like China, the truth is much different, of course. And the dirty truth is that the first-known coronavirus patient fell ill on December 1st. Instead of warning the public, Chinese officials spent the rest of December covering up the news — just like the Soviets did with Chernobyl.
Yet the truth came out, anyway. By the end of December, Dr. Li Wenliang, an opthamologist in Wuhan, posted in a medical chat room news of a strange and frightening illness: the coronavirus. He advised other medics to wear protective clothing to keep from becoming infected.
For his efforts to warn his colleagues, Dr. Li met the wrath of medical officials from the Public Security Bureau. They forced him to sign a statement claiming that he had made “false comments” and “severely disturbed the social order.”
Shortly afterwards, Dr. Li himself became ill with coronavirus, contracting it from a patient with glaucoma. In text messages, he wrote:
“If the officials had disclosed information about the epidemic earlier. I think it would have been a lot better. There should be more openness and transparency.”
But Dr. Li died on Friday. He was only 34 years old, the father to one child. His wife is expecting their second.
Dr. Li isn’t the only hero to speak out. Xu Zhangrun, law professor at Tshinghua University, goes even further. He blames Xi Jinping and the Communist Party for not controlling the outbreak:
“The political system has collapsed under the tyranny, and a governance system [made up] of bureaucrats, which has taken [the party] more than 30 years to build has floundered.”
Now one of Xu’s close friends worries that “the police will take him away.”
Yet another Chinese intellectual is calling for Xi Jinping to step down. Xu Zhiyong — whom the Chinese government once imprisoned for four years — on Tuesday defiantly wrote on social media:
“. . . your men are still looking for me trying to throw me back in jail again. I don’t think you are a villain, just someone who is not very smart. For the public’s sake, I’m asking you again: Step down, Mr Xi Jinping.”
Xu Zhiyong has been hiding from the police since December.
Perhaps the most chilling evidence of how the Chinese government is suppressing the truth about coronavirus comes from videos uploaded by Fang Bin. Fang is not a doctor, or a professor, but merely a middle-aged Wuhan resident. He’s been going into Wuhan hospitals and recording the horrors there.
But late one evening, several men wearing virus suits appeared at his door. They forced their way into Fang’s home, taking his computer and laptop. And just like Dr. Li, Fang had to sign a report which claimed that he was “igniting a nuclear bomb” and not saying “positive things.”
(If you want to see all of Fang Bin’s videos, you can find them at this link at ChinaChange.org. Though they’re in Chinese, they’re translated into English at the website. The texts alone are horrific.)
Now the government is clamping down on the internet and news media, and the state-run media is reporting on more positive stories. For example, state media brags about building a hospital in 11 days. Not only that, but China News Service claimed that during a recent meeting with Xi Jinping, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director general of the World Health Organization, marveled how “China is winning the admiration of the world.”
“This is the superiority of the Chinese system and this experience is worthy of emulation by other countries.”
Right now that “superior” Chinese system is rounding up sick people in Wuhan and placing them in quarantine. A Chinese official is demanding that investigators go door-to-door to check the temperatures of each resident — no mean feat in a city the size of London. And woe to anyone who tries to escape Wuhan:
“Set up a 24-hour duty system. During these wartime conditions, there must be no deserters, or they will be nailed to the pillar of historical shame forever.”
Meanwhile, people in the makeshift quarantine shelters report power failures and electric blankets that do not work. On top of that, there aren’t enough doctors or nurses, and those on-site are rarely taking temperatures or giving out medications.
But this is how totalitarian governments operate. They first deny there’s a problem, and then when they finally admit to it, the state media puts on a happy face. Not to worry — we’ve got this! Don’t speak up about what you really see.
In the words of Wang Xiaodong, the governor of Hubei:
“Stressing politics is always No. 1. Political issues are at any time the most fundamental major issues.”
And for the brave souls who tear open the curtain of secrecy, be prepared for time in prison. Or at the very least, confessing their “crimes” to authorities.
This devastating illness has indeed become China’s Chernobyl.
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