The final cost that China’s leader Xi Jinping will pay for covering up the truth is enormous. One Chinese citizen wants the world to know that the COVID-19 outbreak would not be this bad if it wasn’t for both an active cover-up of the initial cases and ongoing political censorship. Freedom to report the first victims and make decisions without waiting for official orders could have saved hundreds of lives. Chinese citizens are granted free speech by their Constitution. Now is the time for President Xi Jinping to start thinking about letting them use it.
The cover-up cost lives
In an exclusive email interview with News Hour First, a citizen living in China, who wishes to remain anonymous to avoid retribution, describes his frustration with his government’s heavy-handed censorship. Here is a case he says, where the ability to freely communicate factual, not political, information could have saved lives. Trained medical professionals were powerless to do a thing about the horror they watched unfold in front of them. Had they been allowed to network and discuss what was happening, the first cases could have been isolated before the killer 2019-nCov virus infected the entire planet, a cost which now seems inevitable.
According to the resident of Shanghai, there was “a cover-up by local officials of Hubei province and its capital city of Wuhan, which is the epicenter of the epidemic.” Dr. Li Wenliang “tried to alert his college classmates about the SARS like virus spread, but he, along with other 7 doctors were sanctioned by authorities for spreading ‘rumors.’ Medical professionals were aware they had an outbreak on their hands and knew exactly what to do, but had to wait for orders to do it. They weren’t even allowed to talk to their colleagues about it. “People with inside knowledge of the deadly virus” were silenced. “That allowed the virus to erupt.” The cost will be astronomical. We’re only starting to get a handle on exactly how much “devastation” was inflicted on “the lives and economy of China and the world.”
Now that the virus is out of the test tube and loose in the wind, when the crisis is over and the dust settles, “the Chinese central government must have retrospection after the disaster is over to allow people to speak truth, or there is too much cost of covering it up.” In other words, make the price count for something. In China, the average citizen is in the dark as to what is going on. Their official news channels tell them the government is too busy dealing with the crisis to “find out what is the real cause.” The people suspect the government knows and assume the truth is being hidden from them. “they probably did not want us to know for fear of causing more social disruption or disturbance.”
An entire country out sick for a month
The entire nation is on tense lockdown. “China has been virtually shut down for the last few weeks. Communities in all cities were locked up, people stayed at home and could not go out with permission. No travel, no visit of relatives or friends in the season of Chinese new year.” That is a big deal to the locals. It’s their favorite holiday and a chance to travel. Not only are the hotels, bars, and tourist venues feeling the pain, “All business closed except only essential ones such as utilities or medical equipment factories who are making masks or protection clothes.”
It’s starting to get to people. “The measures taken has a mental side effect to the people.” Our correspondent speaks for his neighbors when he writes, “I hope the Chinese central government will take a lesson from this virus spread to truly implement the freedom to speak which is written in the Chinese constitution. If not, we shall be left behind by the world civilization.” Article 35 of the 1982 State Constitution, according to a quick Google search, states that, “citizens of the People’s Republic of China enjoy freedom of speech, of the press, of assembly, of association, of procession, and of demonstration.” They just aren’t allowed to use them.