Vaccine distribution is underway and the end of the COVID-19 pandemic appears to potentially be in sight, but the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is still deceiving the world about the pandemic more than a year after it began.
Journalist Zhang Zhan was reportedly sentenced to four years in prison for reporting the facts on the ground regarding the virus from Wuhan early in 2020. The New York Times and ProPublica published a report in December outlining the myriad ways the CCP cracked down on internet speech to suppress news about the virus.
Reporting indicates that China has been either obscuring or distorting key information since the onset of the disease’s spread, sparking investigations from Congress and condemnation from the White House. Experts have said the pandemic could have been kept under far more control had the CCP been transparent about what was happening since day one. (RELATED: Biden COVID-19 Adviser Admits Spring Lockdowns Went Too Far, Violated Public Trust)
Zhang Zhan, a Chinese citizen journalist who criticized the government’s handling of the outbreak in Wuhan, was sentenced to four years in prison. https://t.co/6doLGl3GLH
— The New York Times (@nytimes) December 28, 2020
It began with Chinese officials withholding evidence of human-to-human transmission, according to a report from House Republicans on the Foreign Affairs Committee. Thirteen days after being told by doctors that the virus was genetically similar to SARS-CoV, which can spread between humans, CCP officials publicly said there was no evidence the virus could spread between humans.
The report also found that the CCP failed to notify the World Health Organization (WHO) when the first cases of the novel coronavirus were detected. The Party actively covered up evidence by destroying forensics at the Huanan wet market where the virus is thought to have originated and closing down the lab in Shanghai that published the SARS-CoV-2 genome.
China also helped sully the credibility of the WHO in its effort to conceal the true state of the pandemic. The House report found that the WHO did not investigate early reports of human-to-human transition out of Taiwan and Hong Kong, and it did not share reports of those cases with its member states.
The report also claims that the WHO delayed its declaration of a public health emergency because it would be “perceived negatively by China.” Critics have repeatedly pointed to what they see as the WHO’s apparent subservience to Chinese interests, including its refusal to acknowledge the existence of Taiwan and its leader defending China repeatedly after a meeting with Beijing in January 2020.
Just in the final week of 2020, a report from the Chinese Center for Disease Control (CDC) found that Wuhan might have had as many as 10 times as many cases of coronavirus as was previously reported.
China has also routinely persecuted both journalists and medical professionals who tried to sound the alarm about COVID-19. In addition to Zhan, several other citizen journalists have been detained or otherwise harassed for spreading information about the virus from China. Western journalists were restricted or even kicked out of the country over the course of 2020 for reporting critically on the regime and its pandemic response. (RELATED: Here’s What You Need To Know About The COVID-19 Vaccines)
At least eight doctors in Wuhan have been arrested by the CCP, according to the House report. Dr. Li Wenliang raised early concerns about the outbreak of a new virus, but he was intimidated by police and accused of spreading misinformation. Li later died of the virus himself, triggering an outpouring of support, and questions, in Chinese social media circles, as outlined in the NYT report.
This week we mark 1 year since Dr. Li Wenliang sounded the alarm over a large number of SARS-like patients at his Wuhan hospital.
Li was silenced by the police and kept working with his patients.
In early January he caught the new disease and died from it in February aged 33. pic.twitter.com/SaByWnX5Zf
— David W. Higgins (@higginsdavidw) December 28, 2020
Chinese authorities quickly responded by telling news outlets to halt push notifications, social platforms to scrub the doctor’s name from their sites, and deploying armies of sock-puppet accounts to muddy online discussion, the Times reported.
The CCP government took control of which stories news outlets promoted, ensuring that homepages were covered with inspiring tales of the country’s successful response to the outbreak. Minute details down to the type of font used and number of hours for a link to be on a front page were dictated from the party’s central leadership, reports the Times.
From March until now, the CCP has engaged in a full-out war to control the perception of their response inside their own borders, according to a Wall Street Journal report. Government-controlled media has reportedly carried out a campaign to portray Xi as a “heroic leader who rescued his country” from a health catastrophe.
The Times and ProPublica found that a primary goal of the CCP was to prevent panic and keep the world from knowing how dangerous the virus truly was. Even as more leaders begin to recognize the motives behind and extent of China’s early deception, the CCP has already succeeded in delaying the world’s response to the pandemic. (RELATED: China Mounting Pressure On Catholic Church In Hong Kong As Crackdown On City Intensifies, Report Finds)
That delay may have come at the costs of millions of lives. A University of Southampton study found that government intervention to control the pandemic just one or two weeks earlier could have dramatically cut the number of new infections and deaths that followed. As things currently stand, nearly 2 million people have died from the virus, including more than 350,000 Americans.