In its response to the coronavirus epidemic, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has shown how a totalitarian regime considers it more important to maintain its power than to ensure people’s health and safety.
When my friend Chen recently called his parents in China, he was surprised to hear how much they knew about the Grand Princess, the cruise ship that recently docked in California waters due to suspected cases of coronavirus on board.
Chen’s parents apparently had a great deal of information about the situation, including how many passengers and crew were on board, how many had been tested, and how many cases of COVID-19 were confirmed.
“Our neighbors are all talking about this—the coronavirus situation in the U.S. is really bad,” added his father.
Chen asked his father about the current situation in China. “Everything is under control—thanks to the government’s information transparency,” he replied. “I know everything, the credit should go to the Chinese Community Party (CCP) for its efforts to contain and control the virus.”
Chen was amazed. He told his father about a case he’d heard about from a neighbor who lived in the residential compound of a Chinese university. He told him the sad story of someone at the university who was tested positive for COVID-19 but died before he was sent to the hospital for treatment.
Chen asked his father if he knew if this case was included in the official tally in his area. His father replied, “How would I know?” and warned his son that the government had issued a policy that people who gossiped about the coronavirus would “face consequences.”
When Chen heard this, he said to his parents, who are two highly educated professionals, that “Information transparency is based on truthfulness and accuracy. If I want to verify virus information related to the cruise ship in California, I could call the cruise company or health agencies in California. Similarly, you should be able to reach out to the university or contact the local health department for more details about that particular case.”
“But we can’t do that,” his mother interrupted. “People would question why we’re asking about it—I wouldn’t want to get us in trouble.”
“If that’s the case,” answered Chen, “then the information transparency you described is, in reality being fed whatever propaganda the government wants people to know.”
“I Don’t Want to Get in Trouble”
Chen said he had similar conversations with his parents before. His father didn’t believe him at all when he said that innocent Falun Gong practitioners were being persecuted in China for their belief in Truthfulness-Compassion-Forbearance or that some had even lost their lives due to torture.
A few days later, Chen came across a case reported on Minghui.org. A young woman in his parent’s neighborhood died in custody less than 10 days after her arrest for practicing Falun Gong. Her mother was threatened not to cry or tell others about it when she was ordered to pick up her daughter’s ashes.
Chen’s father denied that there was any persecution or death of Falun Gong practitioners. Chen challenged him to verify the case since the young lady used to live nearby. His father said that he’d look into it, but he didn’t do anything. He admitted that he did not have the courage to verify the case. “It is what it is. I’m just an ordinary person; I don’t want to get in trouble.”
Different Opinions Suppressed
According to Chinese Human Rights Defenders, a non-profit organization based in Washington, D.C., Chinese officials arrested at least 325 residents between January 22 and 28 alone for spreading information about coronavirus in China. Most of them were charged with “spreading rumors,” “creating panic,” or “attempting to disrupt social order.” They were punished with detention, fines, or disciplinary education.
Fang Bin, a resident of Wuhan, took videos related to the coronavirus epidemic and posted them on YouTube on January 25, 2020, two days after the city’s lockdown. On February 1, he took video footage at five hospitals, including one that transferred out 8 corpses in 5 minutes, and again showed it on YouTube.
Fang was arrested at 7 p.m. that evening by police officers dressed as health professionals, reported the Los Angeles Times on February 3 in an article titled “He filmed corpses of coronavirus victims in China. Then the police broke into his home.” Fang was later released due to pressure from the public and overseas media reports, but he was again arrested on February 10 and his whereabouts remain unknown.
During a meeting in Minhang District, Shanghai on February 28, Party Secretary Ni Yaoming referred to the CCP’s information censorship as an “online war” that “promotes government policies,” “monitors public opinion online,” and “strictly controls online information.”
According to insiders, the CCP’s propaganda has shifted its strategy to the following as the coronavirus has spread to more than 100 countries: 1) diverting the Chinese citizens’ attention to the coronavirus spread outside of China; 2) bragging about the CCP’s capability in controlling the epidemic; and, 3) shifting the blame to the U.S. by spreading conspiracy theories that the virus actually originated in the U.S.
That is how Chen’s parents and the rest of China’s citizens are being led to believe that the CCP has done a great job “controlling the epidemic.”