Even as the COVID-19 outbreak, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan, ravages the globe, the Chinese government is trying to shift blame and avoid being held accountable.
According to Reuters, friends of a Chinese real estate mogul who had criticized Chinese President Xi Jinping’s handling of the outbreak say he has now vanished.
Ren Zhiqiang had called Xi, who also serves as general secretary of the Communist Party of China, a “clown” in an essay written after the Chinese leader delivered a speech on Feb. 23.
In the essay, Ren said the current crisis was exacerbated by the lack of a free news media and free speech in China.
“Ren Zhiqiang is a public figure and his disappearance is widely know. The institutions responsible for this need to give a reasonable and legal explanation for this as soon as possible,” Ren’s friend, businesswoman Wang Ying, told Reuters.
Renmin University history professor Zhang Ming, an acquaintance of Ren’s who has also been unable to get in touch with him, expressed similar sentiments.
“A citizen can’t just disappear, we need to know if he’s been taken by any department and where. His family and friends should know,” Zhang told the South China Morning Post.
He was previously punished over his criticism of Xi’s demands that media outlets serve the interests of China’s ruling communist party.
Despite Ren’s disappearance, the Chinese government is finding it hard to keep reports about its mishandling of the initial outbreak of COVID-19 secret.
The New York Times reported last month that the Chinese government had admitted Xi knew about the emerging pandemic for two weeks before he commented on it.
According to the The Times in London, the Chinese government ordered doctors and laboratory technicians to destroy samples of the virus in late December.
On Feb. 4, The Washington Post noted that as the outbreak was in its early stages, the Chinese government summoned doctors and accused them of spreading “rumors” when they tried to warn about the disease.
Moreover, the Chinese government denied the virus was being transmitted between humans for much of January, even as doctors knew that was not true, according to The Wall Street Journal.
Meanwhile, some Chinese media outlets and officials have been spreading the conspiracy theory that the coronavirus was created by the United States Army.
A fact-check by USA Today has pushed back on that nonsense, but more needs to be done.
Just this week, China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency posted a graphic on Twitter claiming “racism” was being used to cover up “incompetence.”
Racism is not the right tool to cover your own incompetence pic.twitter.com/LmGDyPsULt
— China Xinhua News (@XHNews) March 17, 2020
Thankfully, many people are calling for China to be held accountable for its attempts to cover up the virus and shift blame on others.
“We as a country have to rethink our relationship to the People’s Republic of China,” the American Enterprise Institute’s Jay Cost tweeted.
We as a country have to rethink our relationship to the People’s Republic of China.
— 𝐉𝐚𝐲 𝐂𝐨𝐬𝐭 (@JayCostTWS) March 15, 2020
Cost went on to note that the apparent cover-up would result in “a large American bodycount.”
I don’t know enough about our history with the PRC to say how and why we went wrong. But its mendacity with COVID19 is going to have a large American bodycount. That is unacceptable.
— 𝐉𝐚𝐲 𝐂𝐨𝐬𝐭 (@JayCostTWS) March 15, 2020
“That is unacceptable,” he wrote.
National Review’s Jim Geraghty echoed those sentiments in a piece Monday, writing, “The Chinese government is much more effective at stopping the spread of information about the coronavirus than stopping the spread of the coronavirus. Pardon me, the ‘Wuhan virus.'”
These reports from multiple media outlets clearly point to an apparent cover-up orchestrated by Chinese officials.
Said cover-up undoubtedly cost the world time to react and prepare for the coronavirus.
People died as a result of the lack of preparedness caused by what was — at best — negligence on the part of the government of the People’s Republic of China.
Holding China accountable for that is not racism.
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