In a globalised world, Lauren Haughey comments on the rapid escalation of the disease’s outbreak and publicity: how its infamously censored birthplace has dealt with the crisis
The Financial Times reported that in January, Chinese city Wuhan was host to an honorary dinner experience, attended and celebrated by over 40,000 families unaware that in the shadows lurked the increasing threat of a coronavirus epidemic, already discussed 2 weeks prior by fearful Hong Kong media outlets. But things quickly amplified. The veil was lifted and the world-stage became increasingly aware of the situation at hand. Right now, uncertainty surrounding the coronavirus is glued to the forefront of everybody’s minds. Should I buy a face mask? Should I still use public transport? Should I even take my holiday this year? With interconnections across the scope of our globalised world, Jack Hopkins reports that at present there are 73,451 confirmed coronavirus cases at the time of writing. It’s clear that things have escalated pretty quickly, and that’s undoubtedly scary for a lot of people.
However, as said previously, Hong Kong was publicising the issue before China, despite the origin of Corona being from within Wuhan’s seafood market. To confuse things further, the coronavirus was identified far back in December by Chinese doctor Li Wenliang, who was suggestively dismissed and told to keep quiet. But, as the Chinese people began sensing that something was in the air, journalists and whistleblowers began talking. Footage began circulating online too, with Fang Bin capturing sight of body bags outside Wuhan’s Number 3 hospital, and even claimed to see dead bodies draped alongside distressed patients.
Whilst it’s easy to be swept up in the commotion of the international health crisis, more dangerous questions can be raised regarding the facade of the Chinese government. Fang Bin has now been arrested, alongside various others who have publicly shared their experiences of the coronavirus. This therefore emphasises an alarming problem of information censorship within today’s China.
But maybe this all sounds familiar? Almost 20 years ago, the World Health Organisation revealed that approximately 774 people died from a “strange plague” known as SARS which spawned from China. Like what we’re witnessing today, SARS was barely acknowledged by Beijing authorities and state-controlled media, leading to a flourishing sense of betrayal among the Chinese people.
Like what we’re witnessing today, SARS was barely acknowledged by Beijing authorities and state-controlled media, leading to a flourishing sense of betrayal among the Chinese people.
While it should be appreciated that Xi Jinping has given an official statement regarding the epidemic and has rapidly initiated the construction of coronavirus-dedicated hospitals, people are still being arrested for voicing their opinions. But, in spite of it all, today we witness defiance as matters have been increasingly grabbed by the hands of individuals. For example, there are reports that overwhelmed staff members at the prestigious Wuhan Union hospital have been pleading for medical assistance and resources. In addition to this, Chinese social-media platform WeChat has exploded with cries of communities.
But even this still has its problems. Lack of transparency between government officials and the public has erupted into panic, leading to a global spread of fake-news and conspiracies, from cures of drinking bleach to the threat of Corona being a bioweapon. Although the chaos is far from over, there has been significant progress from an Australian lab where a copy of the virus was grown, having potential to assist trial vaccines. While this should provide some hope to those anxious about the future of corona, what happened with this disasterous chain of events should never be forgotten. If Li Wenliang was not dismissed, if whistleblowers were not arrested and if the Chinese government had been more forthcoming in communication, the spread of virus, scaremongering and uncertainty would not be as bad as it is today.