Despite Censorship and Massive Propaganda, Chinese Citizens Fight to Voice Their Opinions on the Pandemic
(Minghui.org) As over 160 countries and territories are battling the coronavirus pandemic, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) officials have been busy spreading misinformation and singing praises of the CCP.
According to insiders, the CCP's propaganda has now shifted its strategy to the following: 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.
Having been through the CCP's cover-up of the coronavirus outbreak, more and more Chinese residents are standing up to the CCP’s totalitarian regime and finding ways to voice their own opinions.
Cover-up Continues to This Day
Some Chinese journalists and medical professionals recently disclosed how the coronavirus information was covered up by multi-levels of officials since its initial outbreak in Wuhan. After DNA testing indicated that two patients tested positive for coronavirus, Ai Fen, director of the Emergency Department in Wuhan Central Hospital, revealed this information to her medical friends. She and other coworkers, including Li Wenliang who later died of the virus, were muzzled almost immediately for “spreading rumors.”
As a result of the CCP's systematic quarantine of coronavirus information, more than 3,000 healthcare workers in Hubei Province had been infected as of March 6, 2020. Among them, 40% were infected in hospitals and 60% in their communities. Almost all of them are regular healthcare workers, not epidemic specialists.
One of the key factors contributing to the high number of infections and deaths was the CCP’s continued cover-up of the epidemic. While Chinese officials had acknowledged 830 coronavirus cases by January 24, 2020, Hu Dianbo, a physician from Hubei Aerospace Hospital in Xiaogan City, Hubei Province, revealed that day that he and his fellow physicians estimated that there were over 100,000 infections in Wuhan alone.
“To cover up the facts, Hubei Province said it had sufficient supplies and refused foreign aid. The hospitals are like hell and people are running around, just hoping to survive,” he wrote. “I know doing this [writing the post] might get me in trouble. But I don’t care—saving a life is more important.”
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. Most of them were charged with “spreading rumors,” “creating panic,” or “attempting to disrupt social order.”
The cover-ups continue to this day. One report received by Minghui.org described the situation in Harbin City, Heilongjiang Province, where a doctor identified several coronavirus cases based on a radiograph, but none of the cases were included in the official tally. It turned out that those few patients were treated as regular pneumonia patients for the sake of saving money for the hospital (which must cover coronavirus treatment expenses, but not other medical care) and lowering the number of confirmed cases to align with officially published numbers.
But this was not the worst. Another report received from Shandong Province provided testimony of a woman who had relatives in Wuhan. The relatives said almost everyone in a nearby village was infected. Instead of offering treatment, officials locked down the entire village. Personnel was dispatched to check in with every household once every few days. If someone opened the door, the agents knew the homeowners were still alive and would move to the next house. Otherwise, they would break in and carry the bodies to a big pit already dug previously for burial. The pit was said to have a capacity of hundreds of people.
Creativity Over Censorship
Ai Fen was recently interviewed with Renwu (People) magazine, during which she recalled how she and other doctors in Wuhan Central Hospital were stopped from raising awareness about the epidemic. The article was published on March 10, the day when Chinese president Xi Jinping visited Wuhan for the first time since the epidemic broke out. Hours later, the article was removed from the magazine as well as the entire Chinese Internet.
“New versions of the article, in attempts to evade censors, have proliferated, from one partly written in emojis to another done in morse code, as well as pinyin, the romanization system for Mandarin,” reported The Guardian on March 11, 2020, in a report titled “Coronavirus: Wuhan doctor speaks out against authorities.”
“Looking at these different versions, I couldn’t help laughing,” wrote a user on WeChat, “Then I burst into tears [over the tragedy].”
Hsin-chung Liao, a writer from Taiwan, referred to such creativity as a dark drama. He looks forward to a new era when people “can freely write Chinese.”
“The coronavirus has struck a nerve in China because it has affected almost everyone in the country in some way”, said King-wa Fu, a censorship expert at the University of Hong Kong, according to Wall Street Journal report titled “China’s Internet Users Foil Censors to Keep a Wuhan Doctor’s Interview Online.”
Gratitude Education Backfires
Wuhan Party secretary Wang Zhonglin recently called on local residents to thank Chinese leader Xi Jinping and the CCP for fighting coronavirus, in a campaign dubbed “gratitude education.” His words were met with harsh resistance.
Chinese journalist Chu Zhaoxin wrote on WeChat suggesting Wang to “educate himself,” “You are a public servant, and your job is to serve the people. Now the people you serve are broken, the dead are still cold, and the tears of the living have not yet dried,” according to a report on The Guardian with the title of “'Gratitude education': Wuhan boss faces backlash over calls to thank leaders.”
Da Guo Zhan Yi (“A Battle Against the Epidemic: China Combating Covid-19 in 2020”), a book compiled by the CCP’s Publicity Department and State Council Information Office, was published in February 2020, depicting CCP officials as heroes who defeated the coronavirus infection. The book was abruptly removed from bookstores across China on March 1, 2020.
Many netizens criticized the book. “It could serve as a testimony for this absurd era in history,” wrote one post sarcastically, “It describes how the CCP mistreats people.”
Journalists Join In
Many journalists in China also began to make their own voices heard. This includes Jacob Wang, a journalist for a state-run newspaper in China. As the CCP claimed that life in Wuhan is returning to normal, he “knew that Wuhan was still in crisis — he had traveled there to chronicle the failures of the government firsthand. He took to social media to set the record straight, writing a damning post last month about sick patients struggling to get medical care amid a dysfunctional bureaucracy,” reported New York Times on March 14, 2020, in an article titled “As China Cracks Down on Coronavirus Coverage, Journalists Fight Back.”
“People were left to die, and I am very angry about that,” Mr. Wang said in an interview. “I’m a journalist, but I’m also an ordinary human being.” He and other journalists wrote articles exposing the Chinese government’s cover-ups and calling for press freedom through social media.
In such a rare challenge to the ruling Communist Party, these journalists sometimes were overwhelmed by the pressure of the censorship as well as the death and despair caused by the pandemic. “You really couldn’t sleep at night seeing all these horrible stories,” Wang said, referring to his report on the Wuhan lockdown, “It was really upsetting.”
Tenney Huang, a reporter for a state-owned publication, also spent several weeks in Wuhan. “Everyone is in a state of feeling held back and wronged,” he said. “Free expression is a way for us to fight back.”
Huang said he and other journalists turned to social media as the censorship intensified. “Facts are like firewood,” he remarked. “The more you pile on, the more fierce the flame when a spark finally lights it.”
Millennial: It Is My Mission to Speak for the Dead
Young people also found their dreams shattered by the reality. Tu Long, 26, grew up in Wuhan and graduated from a top journalism school in China. He realized his dream could not be achieved in China. “My school aimed to cultivate those who help control public opinions,” he said, “More than once, I heard my teachers bragging about how they managed to control public opinions,” according to an article in New York Times on March 14, 2020, titled “‘I Have the Obligation to Speak for the Dead’.”
“When they expelled the ‘low-end population’ [migrant workers] in Beijing, I said to myself, I worked very hard. I’m not part of the ‘low-end population,’ I would not be expelled.
“When they built the concentration camps in Xinjiang [for the minority-Muslim Uighurs], I thought, I’m not an ethnic minority, I don't have any religious beliefs, I would not be in trouble.
“I sympathize with the suffering of Hong Kong people, but I thought I would not go on the street to protest [for democracy], so it has nothing to do with me.
“This time it hit my hometown. Many people around me had already gotten sick, some had died, so I couldn’t stand it any longer,” said Tu.
“The majority of Chinese, myself included, are not innocent. We condone [the CCP leadership] to do evil, some even assisted them to do evil,” he reflected.
A friend once told Tu that, to live in China, one has to do one of two things, if not both: Number one, disregard rationality; Number two, disregard conscience.
Tu found that he could do neither. “As a survivor of the Wuhan epidemic, for the rest of my life, I have the obligation to speak for the dead,” he remarked.