[Above] Chinese President Xi Jinping visits the Chuanshan port area in east China’s Zhejiang Province on March 29, 2020. Ju Peng/Xinhua via AP
Scarcely a single country in the world will have remained untouched by the time the Covid 19 virus has wrought its final destruction . There are many rumours and conspiracy theories in circulation regarding the source of this virus. However, there seems no escaping that this, along with other previous deadly viruses originated in China.
But is this a time for blame? Yes, it is. Accounting for responsibility when a disaster happens—particularly one likely to devastate entire countries, leaving thousands dead—is not irrelevant in any way. Having said that, it is important to distinguish between the Chinese authorities and the Chinese people.
.The source of the coronavirus is believed to be a “wet market” in Wuhan which sold both dead and live animals including fish, birds and exotic animals.
Such markets pose a heightened risk of viruses jumping from animals to humans because hygiene standards are difficult to maintain if live animals are being kept and butchered on site. Typically, they are also densely packed allowing disease to spread from species to species. Live snakes are sold alongside dead chickens
The animal source of Covid-19 has not yet been identified, but the original host is thought to be bats. Bats were not sold at the Wuhan market but may have infected live chickens or other animals sold there.
Bats are host to a wide range of zoonotic viruses including Ebola, HIV and rabies. Surely it is is time to completely eradicate these wet markets, no matter whom we offend. The Chinese cultural practice of eating certain exotic or wild animals must end. The WHO could easily take a lead here. The future health of the world depends on it.
So let’s turn now to the Chinese authorities.
Less than three months ago, when the first cases of COVID-19 showed up, the Chinese government began censoring social media that employed keywords such as “unknown Wuhan pneumonia.” It punished users for “spreading rumours” and fomenting “social unrest.”
As the coronavirus pandemic sweeps the globe, one fact is increasingly clear: The Chinese Communist Party caused this crisis.
From the moment the coronavirus emerged in central China, Beijing has acted in a way that made a pandemic possible and then inevitable. It covered up what was happening in Wuhan. It silenced whistleblowers who sought to warn the world. It stole medical supplies from other countries, even while claiming the sickness was no big deal.
At every stage, the Chinese Communist Party has lied. Now countless people have died. And the number is growing by the minute. And it is the poor and weakest in society who are the most affected.
Beijing’s culpability is the result of its oppression. The only way to stop a spreading sickness is to spread information even faster, giving people and countries the facts and the time to prevent a pandemic. China’s rulers made that impossible. Starting in December, communist authorities cracked down on anyone talking about the coronavirus.
When a brave doctor warned his peers online, he was summoned by police in the middle of the night and forced to write a “self-criticism” — a classic communist method of silencing dissenters that forces them to confess supposed crimes. When Chinese journalists wrote about the sickness, their work was censored. When average citizens took to social media to share the facts, they were silenced. Beijing did everything in its power to prevent the outside world from working out what was really going on. Moreover, approximately 5m people were allowed out of Wuhan at the time of the Chinese New Year who became super spreaders of the disease.
The truth was terrifying, although largely unknown beyond China’s borders. Western intelligence agencies have concluded that China systematically hid the real number of sick people, as well as the number of deaths. Sure enough, in mid-January, Beijing still claimed that only a few dozen people were infected with the coronavirus. The real totals of people infected and deaths were likely far higher, as we were already hearing from dissidents within China.
Beijing’s lies lulled the world into a false sense of security. By concealing the extent of the coronavirus, China caused other countries to assume the situation was under control, or at least that they had more time to prepare.
It corrupts everything it touches, including the World Health Organization, which helped delay the truth about the outbreak. A January 14 tweet by the UN organization said Chinese “officials found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission,” which we now know was false. Warnings from Taiwan were ignored because China does not recognise the State of Taiwan!
Whatever the final verdict, if there is any common sense and courage left in Western politics, nobody will forget or excuse the havoc and death China has unleashed on the world. It doesn’t mean we must shun the Chinese state, only that we must never trust the official line, and must never ever fool ourselves into thinking that our countries operate from a shared value system.