This is going to be a real downer for everyone who is currently praising the Chinese Communist Party’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
(We’re looking at you, POLITICO.)
Survivors and relatives of those who died of the novel coronavirus in the epicenter of Wuhan, China, are being threatened and interrogated by police and lawyer have been warned not to help them.
In a surprising act of journalism, The New York Times published a piece that was critical of the Chinese government’s authoritarian response to the pandemic.
It’s kind of refreshing to see actual journalism in the Times these days!
The Chinese authorities are clamping down as grieving relatives, along with activists, press the ruling Communist Party for an accounting of what went wrong in Wuhan, the city where the coronavirus killed thousands before spreading to the rest of China and the world.
Lawyers have been warned not to file suit against the government. The police have interrogated bereaved family members who connected with others like them online. Volunteers who tried to thwart the state’s censorship apparatus by preserving reports about the outbreak have disappeared.
“They are worried that if people defend their rights, the international community will know what the real situation is like in Wuhan and the true experiences of the families there,” said Mr. Yang, who is living in New York, where he fled after he was briefly detained for his work in China.
The crackdown underscores the party’s fear that any attempt to dwell on what happened in Wuhan, or to hold officials responsible, will undermine the state’s narrative that only China’s authoritarian system saved the country from a devastating health crisis.
The state has even labeled the dead as “martyrs” rather than as victims which is an attempt to “inspire patriotic fervor.” Chinese censors have deleted the early local news reports that exposed local officials’ attempts to hide the severity of the outbreak.
How many of these “martyrs” have there been? We have no idea. China’s reported numbers are completely unreliable. They even blamed further outbreaks on foreigners.
The CCP doesn’t want anything making them look weak, even disasters. The Party has a history of bullying and/or paying hush money to citizens to keep quiet.
The party has long been wary of public grief and the dangers it could pose to its rule.
In 2008, after an earthquake in Sichuan Province killed at least 69,000 people, Chinese officials offered hush money to parents whose children died. Following a deadly train crash in the city of Wenzhou in 2011, officials prevented relatives from visiting the site. Each June, the authorities in Beijing silence family members of protesters who were killed in the 1989 crackdown on the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy movement.
Now, some say the government is imposing the same kind of collective amnesia around the outbreak.
“They spend so much time trying to control us. Why can’t they use this energy to address our concerns instead?” asked Zhang Hai whose father contracted the virus in a Wuhan hospital and died in February. Mr. Zhang had conducted several interviews with reporters but editors pulled the story before publication.
The crackdown has been most galling to people mourning family members. They say they are being harassed and subjected to close monitoring as they try to reckon with their losses.
The coronavirus killed nearly 4,000 people in Wuhan, according to China’s official figures. Some residents believe the true toll is much higher. The government fired two high-ranking local officials, but that is not enough for many grieving relatives, who say they want fair compensation for their losses and harsher punishment for officials.
Source: New York Times
There have been reports that Wuhan crematoriums have thousands of urns of remains–much higher than the reported death toll from the coronavirus.
At Wuchang Funeral Home, #Wuhan. Family members of the dead collect ashes. The funeral home promises to give out 500 urns per day and will try to give out all before Qingming Festival (Apr. 4). That number is already more than 6K and from just one …#CCPVirus #COVID2019 pic.twitter.com/f50JcNyctX
— Jennifer Zeng 曾錚 (@jenniferatntd) March 26, 2020
Just one facility could have handled all of the COVID deaths in the entire country if China’s numbers are correct.
Wuhan had 14 crematoriums with the capacity of 144 remains per day. Those are 1,700 urns waiting to be claimed, many have no names. The 1,200, or so, brown boxes are waiting to be unpacked. It would’ve taken just 1 of these facilities to handle *all of China’s coronavirus deaths. pic.twitter.com/sGYCvKDzoK
— Hey, Dave! (@davegreenidge57) March 27, 2020
Let’s be frank, I don’t think that anyone is surprised that China, with its concentration camps for minorities, systemic racism, secret prisons that house dissidents who are “disappeared” on a regular basis, a “social credit” system to control speech, a thriving organ-harvesting market, and a penchant for using tanks against protesters is also trying to clamp down on questions raised about what was clearly a bungling of a virus outbreak that has become a global pandemic.
The thing that surprises me is that the New York Times actually published the article.