(Minghui.org) In response to the surging infection cases of the novel coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, the Chinese communist regime tightened the control of the news media and the internet, allowing only the official narrative about the outbreak to be circulated.

Strict Information Control

According to videos posted online by netizens, most hospitals are still overcrowded and many patients don’t have access to medical treatment. Meanwhile, the crematoriums in Wuhan are working around the clock, often burning over 100 bodies each day.

The official death toll reported by the communist regime, though, is only 1,016 by February 10, leaving many suspecting that the real number could be much higher.

Frustrated with the lack of transparency about the outbreak, many Chinese are criticizing the government, expressing their anger and sharing first-hand information about the epidemic on social media.

But the Chinese regime proved to the world again that it has zero tolerance for criticism of its handling of the virus.

On January 22, a netizen with a family name of Bu was arrested and detained for three days for publishing a blog post on Sina that 444 infections and 17 death cases had been confirmed in Hubei Province. He also added that three death cases had been reported in his hometown in Guang’an, Sichuan Province. All the data he sent were from the official source.

On January 25, a netizen with a family name of Hai in Xining City, Qinghai Province, was arrested and detained for ten days for sending a message on WeChat that “all local taxi services will be suspended in Xining.”

On January 27, another citizen Peng in Wan’an County, Jiangxi Province was arrested and detained for five days for sharing on WeChat that a patient had been confirmed to be infected with the virus and quarantined in a local hospital.

According to the Washington-based Chinese Human Rights Defenders, from January 22 to 28, at least 325 Chinese citizens were arrested for “spreading rumors,” “creating fear,” or “disrupting social order” with their online posts. 

Most of these people were detained, fined and reprimanded. Their “negative” comments or articles were deleted. Some had their social media accounts permanently closed. 

One Chinese currently in the U.S. said when she told her friend on WeChat that three people living in the same neighborhood as her parents in Beijing had already died from the coronavirus, her friend immediately reminded her to delete the message or her WeChat account might be closed. “I can feel the tension [about the information control] even in the U.S.,” she said.

Clamping Down on Media Coverage

The Beijing-based magazine Caijing published a major investigative report on February 1 about people who allegedly died from “regular pneumonia” and were not counted towards the coronavirus fatalities.

After interviewing more than ten coronavirus patients in Wuhan, their families and doctors, the reporter concluded that “the official figures of infection and death cases cannot reflect the true situation.”

This report showed the hard reality of a large number of patients in Wuhan who couldn’t receive timely treatment. Many died without ever being tested, and their deaths were not included in the official statistics. 

Such information embarrassed the communist regime, which soon ordered the deletion of the article.

One netizen commented, “This is the real situation in Wuhan. Those fake numbers and fake reports can’t hide the dire situation of people living in the epicenter. There are way too many families that were all infected but couldn’t be treated. Many elderly people couldn’t do anything but wait to die.”

Only two days after the Caijing article, the Chinese Central Propaganda Department ordered that all media coverage in China about the novel coronavirus go through a strict approval process.

King-wa Fu, an associate professor at the Journalism and Media Studies Center at the University of Hong Kong, told the New York Times, “In the early days of the crisis, online vitriol had largely been directed at the local authorities. Now, more of the anger is being aimed at higher-level leadership, and there seems to be more of it over all. The Chinese government has shifted its strategy for information control in response to the changing nature of the public’s discontent.”

Coronavirus Epidemic Update

On Feburary 8, Chinese health officials confirmed that the novel coronavirus can be spread through aerosol transmission, which means that one can be infected from breathing the very tiny droplets in the air containing the virus. 

Signs of infection include fever, fatigue, dry cough, and breathing difficulties. Others also reported symptoms such as diarrhea, headaches, palpitations, chest pain, eye inflammation, and muscle soreness.

Since February 10, most major cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Shenzhen, and Tianjin have joined a list of over 80 Chinese cities that have enacted isolation measures to prevent the virus from spreading.

At the time of writing, the virus has spread to 27 countries outside of China. Japan registered the second most cases with 161, followed by 45 in Singapore and 38 in Hong Kong.

Other infection counts include: Thailand 32, Korea 27, Taiwan 18, Malaysia 18, Australia 15, Vietnam 14, Germany 14, U.S. 13, France 11, Macao 10, U.K. 8, Canada 7, U.A.E. 7, Philippines 3, India 3, Italy 3, Russia 2, Spain 2, Sri Lanka 1, Cambodia 1, Finland 1, Nepal 1, Sweden 1, and Belgium 1. 

Hong Kong and the Philippines also reported one death case each.

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