Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

Akio Yaita

【#668(Special)】Don’t Believe What China Says

Akio Yaita / 2020.04.01 (Wed)

April 1, 2020

The new coronavirus originating from China’s Wuhan is wreaking havoc throughout the world. At the end of March, the number of coronavirus deaths in Italy surpassed 10,000. In the United States, the number of people infected with the virus has been increasing at a daily rate of 20,000. In China where the virus broke out first and spread, however, the government has strangely declared that the number of people infected with the virus has increased very slowly and that more than 90% of the infected have fully healed.

Some Japanese media suggest Japan should learn from China that has successfully contained the coronavirus pandemic. However, it is not natural for China alone to dramatically hold down the number of infected people while other countries are desperately trying to prevent the pandemic from expanding further.

Foreign journalists barred from visiting infected area

The number of infected people in China has been released through government-controlled media. There are hundreds of foreign journalists in Beijing sent from all over the world. However, the Chinese government has kept them in Beijing for the nominal purpose of preventing their infection with the virus, effectively barring them from visiting regions affected by the virus, such as Hubei Province including Wuhan, since the end of last year.

Furthermore, the Chinese government has increased its pressure on foreign journalists to refrain from trying to reveal the truth. In mid-March, the government ordered reporters working for three U.S. newspapers – The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post – to return their press credentials within 10 days, effectively expelling them out of China.

The action was officially explained as a retaliation against the U.S. government’s restriction imposed on the number of Chinese media staffers stationed in the U.S. However, it is speculated that the Chinese government expelled disobedient U.S. journalists to conceal the fact that the infection is still expanding in China.

Intellectuals have gone missing

At the same time, the Chinese government has further tightened control on the Internet, thoroughly deleting postings that differ from government announcements. It has detained journalists and intellectuals critical of the government regarding responses to the new coronavirus outbreak. More than two months have passed since the disappearance of lawyer Chen Qiushi who had sneaked into Wuhan and been reporting the situation of the city hit by the outbreak through the Internet. Former university lecturer Xu Zhiyong and business tycoon Ren Zhiqiang have also been missing.

While suppressing domestic free speech, China has declared to the international community that it had overcome the outbreak. None can verify numbers that China has announced. It is risky to blindly accept what the Chinese government says.

Akio Yaita is Taipei Bureau Chief of the Sankei Shimbun newspaper.