Even as the rest of the world continues to grapple with COVID-19 pandemic, the Chinese city of Wuhan, the birthplace of the virus in Hubei province sprang back to action on Wednesday, April 8, 2020 after 76 days of continuous lockdown. Pictures of joyous nurses and health workers requisitioned from other provinces waiting to leave for home, and emotional scenes of nurses bidding goodbye to one another at the Wuhan International Airport as well as the official display of fireworks to mark the reopening went viral all over the world. Cars and bikes returned to the city roads, and public transport including trains resumed services as usual for commuters. These pictures of resurgence by a city which suffered the most in terms of number of cases and deaths surely had a message for the rest of the world that COVID-19 after all is not a disease that is invincible provided the countries exhibit necessary resolve to defeat the unseen enemy.
As we admire Wuhan for springing back to action despite being hit, bruised and wounded during the last few months, we also look back with regrets how the Chinese supremo Xi Jinping and the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) had actually wronged the international community by concealing facts about the novel coronavirus. Remember within China, the alarm bell on the virus was sounded as early as December 2019 by Dr. Li Wenliang of Wuhan Central Hospital, who unfortunately succumbed to the virus later in February. He warned the Chinese authorities of a possible outbreak that could become uncontrollable if the virus was not nip in the bud. But instead of objectively examining what his warning was all about, the Chinese authority labelled him as someone trying to spread false rumours and was investigated upon. They made him sign a confessional statement to say that his earlier warning about an epidemic was without any basis. Besides him, young citizen journalists like Li Zehua, Chen Qiushi and Fang Bin, who tried to report about the virus in good faith were also taken to task and arrested on the same charges. Even a legal scholar, Xu Shizong, was detained because he published an open letter to criticize the CCP’s response to the virus outbreak.
The fact is that the Chinese authorities knew about the virus as early as January 2020 and had a fair estimation on how the novel coronavirus was likely to impact adversely on the population of China as well as the world. But Xi Jinping deliberately covered up because he did not want China to be seen as a breeder of yet another deadly virus after SARS of 2002. Moreover, the Chinese New Year, which is also known as the Spring festival, was due to be celebrated on February 8, 2020, for which thousands of foreign nationals were already lined up to come and witness the festivity in different parts of China. This festival was important for China because besides the economic benefits, China could use the occasion as an opportunity to showcase her emergence as one of the world’s leaders in economy. Therefore, Xi and the CCP did not want the occasion to be jeopardized even at the cost of endangering human lives around the world – another example of a degrading moral turpitude in the CCP.
By the time China successfully accomplished what it wanted to do with the spring festival and insidiously hoodwinked the international community on the actual status of COVID-19, around 1800 people were already affected by the virus in Wuhan itself and travelled across international borders beyond its birthplace. It travelled to Italy, Iran, the USA, Canada, Australia, the UK, European countries, Africa and Asia and soon assumed a pandemic situation. As of today, the global death toll has crossed 100,000 mark, besides the pandemic is rattling the economy all over the world. In other words, the Communist China’s avowed goal of “Community of a Shared Future for Mankind” has ironically been replaced by “Community of a Shared Coronavirus for Mankind”. Some even described it as virtual realization of the Belt and Road Initiative dream of China. Xi Jinping and his administration will never accept this. In fact, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman made a shocking accusation on his Twitter handle: “It might be the US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan, the US owes us an explanation”. Bizarre as it may sound, this pretty much is the way Chinese diplomacy functions.
Beside the immoral stand taken by the CCP, what was even sadder was the manner in which the World Health Organisation (WHO) reacted to China’s handling of novel coronavirus. No doubt there was hardly any difference between how China responded to the outbreak of SARS epidemic in 2002-03 and now with COVID-19, but during SARS epidemic, WHO was quick to criticise China’s lackadaisical approach and delay in forging international cooperation, which ultimately led to China removing its Health Minister as a sign of admission. WHO was also quick to recommend travel restrictions and pulled up China for delaying the submission of vital information that would have limited global spread of SARS virus. This time, however, such assertion by the international body was sadly missing. In fact, apart from being muted, Dr. Tredos and his team misled the world by deliberately downplaying the pandemic, again an indicator of how the present Chinese regime manipulates various international bodies to her advantage.
The rots are now slowly but steadily rolling out. International voices are becoming shriller by the day against the negligent attitude shown by the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) led by its strongman Xi Jinping. In a speaking report, an epidemiological model at the University of Southampton found that had “China acted responsibly just one, two or three weeks more quickly, the number affected by virus would have been cut by 66 percent, 86 percent and 95 percent respectively. Its failure has unleashed a global contagion killing thousands of people all over the world”. The London Telegraph on its March 29 edition quoted UK’s Health Minister accusing China of hiding the truth about coronavirus and endangering the world community. James Kraska, a renowned Professor on international maritime law in the Stockton Center U.S. and Naval War College professor, in article on March 23, issue of War on Rocks says, China is legally responsible for COVID-19 and claims could be made in trillions. Whether or not WHO was complicit to deliberate ploy of China on COVID-19 will be known in days to come, but for the present, not the people of China, but the Chinese Communist Party certainly owe and apology to the international community for untold miseries the world currently is going through.
(The author is a retired IPS officer. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Northeast Now. He can be reached at [email protected])