Many journalists who have bravely reported on the growing Coronavirus crisis, which emanated from China’s Wuhan province, as well as the government’s failure to control the outbreak have either disappeared, been expelled from the country or have been stopped all-together from reporting on the situation.
The Chinese Communist Party’s authoritarian grip on journalists has complicated the matter and made it extremely difficult to get accurate information from the region. For example, two citizen journalists, Chen Quishi and Fang Bin, disappeared after going public on Youtube to expose the Chinese Communist Party’s coverup of the severity of the COVID-19 outbreak that started in December, 2019.
Chen Quishi was the first of the two to disappear after he posted his video where he recalled what it was like to be in those hospitals. He put himself in a vulnerable position.
“I’m afraid.” he said in the video, “In front of me is the virus and behind me is the legal and administrative power of China.”
He continued,”As long as I live in this city, I will continue to report. I only report what I see and what I hear. I really like to be blunt, right?”
One clip, that I recall seeing from his original video, that has since been deleted, showed a woman holding a lifeless man in the hospital hallway, who Quishi confirmed was deceased. It was a devastating scene.
Quishi expressed frustration over other journalists, he said, who were too afraid “to rush to the frontline” when “catastrophe strikes.”
Fang Bin similarly posted videos from inside hospitals in Wuhan. In the videos, one can see patients receiving care in both overcrowded rooms and hallways. One can also see doctors dressed in full body protective gear.
“These days, friends online have been expressing concern about me because I’m going in and out, right? But now you’re taking videos of the real situation in the hospitals and putting it out there, right? So that everyone can see.” said Fang Bin, “Now, we want the people to help themselves, right? Now, how do we get people to save themselves? They have to help each other to save themselves.”
The situation, according to Fang Bin, was completely “man-made.”
“Lawyer Chen Quishi is missing.” he said, “My WeChat account has been shut down. Our friends are very anxious about whether Wuhan authorities will come to find me.”
A few days later, Fang Bin disappeared.
“It wasn’t the first or the last time”
It wasn’t the first or the last time the Chinese government tried to hide information from the public and scare anyone away who wanted to do so. Last month, three Wall Street Journal reporters were expelled from Wuhan, which China’s Foreign Ministry said was punishment for an opinion piece published by the paper titled “China is the real sick man of Asia,” according to the WSJ.
“Regrettably, what the WSJ has done so far is nothing but parrying and dodging its responsibility,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a daily news briefing. “The Chinese people do not welcome those media that speak racially discriminatory language and maliciously slander and attack China.”
The Wall Street Journal’s Deputy Bureau Chief Josh Chin, reporter Chao Deng, and reporter Philip Wen were all instructed to leave the country within five days of receiving the warning, said Jonathan Cheng, the Journal’s China bureau chief.
“This opinion piece was published independently from the WSJ newsroom and none of the journalists being expelled had any involvement with it,” WSJ publisher William Lewis said.
“Our opinion pages regularly publish articles with opinions that people disagree—or agree—with and it was not our intention to cause offense with the headline on the piece,” Mr. Lewis said. “However, this has clearly caused upset and concern amongst the Chinese people, which we regret.”
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo condemned the Chinese government for the decision.
“China has bought the WHO”
As of Monday, the World Health Organization reported over 80,000 confirmed cases of the disease in mainland China. The numbers, however, are difficult to trust given China’s stronghold on the free press and critics are encouraging the public to question them.
China expert and author Gordon Chang asserted “China has bought the WHO”, in an interview with NTB News host Simone Gao released Wednesday. “WHO officials say anything China wants them to say, so China has been issuing statistics showing that new infections are on the downslope. It corresponds with what Xi Jinping wants do do, which is to get Chinese workers back to their job sites,” Chang said.
He continued, “Whenever you have statistics support a leader’s policies, you’ve got to be very concerned. We really don’t know what’s going on inside of China, and I don’t even think the WHO knows either.”
Senator Tom Cotton, R-AR, has been critical of China’s reporting on coronavirus since the start of the outbreak three months ago. “We still don’t know how many people have been infected or killed by Coronavirus on the Chinese mainland. All we have are bogus statistics that just so happen to track perfectly, perfectly with the Communist Party line day after day,” Cotton recently explained on the Senate floor.
Further, Cotton slammed China for “obviously cooking their books” citing a piece published last month by Barron’s.
“A statistical analysis of China’s coronavirus casualty data shows a near-perfect prediction model that data analysts say isn’t likely to naturally occur, casting doubt over the reliability of the numbers being reported to the World Health Organization.” Barron’s Lisa Beilfuss wrote, “That’s aside from news on Thursday that health officials in the epicenter of the outbreak reported a surge in new infections after changing how they diagnose the illness.”