As the confirmed number of coronavirus cases surpassed 1 million worldwide, and there is no end in sight for the prolonged lockdown in many countries, the call for holding communist China accountable for the coronavirus pandemic is getting louder. It’s important that in our quest for justice, we distinguish between the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and the Chinese people. At fault for the spread of the Wuhan coronavirus is the CCP.
Driven by the CCP’s overarching desire to suppress any bad news for the sake of social, economic, and political stability, Chinese government officials silenced Wuhan’s whistleblowers, covered up the truth from the Chinese people and the rest of the world, downplayed the human-to-human transmission risks in early January, took no measures to prevent the spread of the virus for nearly two months, and went ahead with provincial Communist Party planning meetings.
By the time the Chinese government finally took draconian measures to lock down millions of people in late January, efforts to prevent worldwide spread were already too late. A U.K. study shows that if the Chinese government had taken action three weeks earlier, the number of cases would be 95 percent lower than it is now.
The Chinese Communist Party Lied Repeatedly
Even after the danger of the virus became apparent, however, the CCP’s cover-up and lies continued. It ordered the Chinese labs that identified the virus as a highly infectious new pathogen to stop testing and immediately destroy samples. It consistently underreported the number of confirmed cases in China by excluding asymptomatic carriers of the virus from its entire tally.
Since Communist Party Secretary Xi Jinping visited Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak, on March 10, China hasn’t reported any new local cases. Even Chinese media began to question the official death tolls. The Chinese government insists only 2,548 people in Wuhan have died of the virus, but recently, one local funeral home handled 5,000 urns in two days, and pictures of long lines waiting outside local funeral homes went viral on Chinese social media before censors took them down.
The lack of transparency and data-sharing from the CCP has hindered containment efforts globally. Now, more than 1 billion people worldwide are under some form of lockdown, schools are canceled, sporting events are postponed, churches and businesses are closed, economies around the globe are devastated, and unemployment rates are soaring. The number of infections and deaths are climbing daily. Yet the CCP continues to treat this global health crisis as a public relations matter.
Before all the bodies could even be buried, China’s state-owned media have already begun singing Xi’s praises, saying he has a “pure heart like a newborn’s that always puts the people as his number one priority.” While shamelessly showering Xi with nauseating admirations, the CCP has aggressively deflected its own responsibility by pointing fingers at others. It sent surplus medical equipment abroad, aiming to capture market share and cast itself as a reliable global partner, but the quality issues of its exports endangered medical professionals rather than providing them urgently needed help.
When this pandemic is over, the rest of the world should continue to hold the CCP accountable for its deception, disinformation, and delay. But a reckoning with the CCP is not the same as punishing all Chinese people.
The CCP Persecutes Chinese People Too
Keep in mind that the Chinese people have repeatedly suffered under the CCP’s rule since 1949. Millions perished from either mass famine or nonstop political and religious persecution.
Chinese people are victims in this pandemic too. The CCP didn’t inform them to take precautions until it was too late. Once the CCP decided to lock down cities, it inflicted further pains on people.
We’ve heard anecdotes from people who had to walk hours from their homes to hospitals because all public transportation was shut down. Some had to wait for hours in the cold outside the hospital only to be turned away because hospitals were overwhelmed, running out of beds and medical equipment. Some people committed suicide because they couldn’t get treatment and didn’t want to infect their loved ones.
Some infected people became homeless. Others died because their caregivers were forced into quarantine. Some people saw local officials weld iron bars over their apartment doors and building entrances in the name of containment. Others were tied to poles or forced to endure public humiliations simply for not wearing masks. I could go on and on with these tragic examples of Chinese people’s sufferings amid this outbreak.
Most Chinese people endure their suffering in silence, because speaking truth and voicing dissent in Communist China carries severe personal risks. Still, there is not a lack of courageous heroes in China who are willing to speak up. Whistleblowers such as Dr. Ai Fen and Dr. Li Wenliang tried to warn the public about the virus, though local officials reprimanded them both. Dr. Li died of the virus. Dr. Ai has gone “missing.”
Several citizen journalists are presumed to have been detained by Chinese authorities after posting videos on social media documenting the reality of the ongoing pandemic. A Chinese property tycoon also vanished after criticizing the CCP’s mishandling of the outbreak.
Chinese People Aren’t Safe from the CCP in the U.S.
Those who are ethnically Chinese but live in foreign countries are not safe either, because the CCP’s arm has extended its control across its borders. The Independent Federation of Chinese Students and Scholars in the U.S. said that “it was ‘deeply concerned’ about reports that have emerged from universities in the United States, Canada, France, Ireland, and the Netherlands” of Communist Party-backed groups (including students and non-students) threatening and harassing Uyghur, Tibetan, and Hong Kong students and their supporters for campaigning against the CCP’s human rights violations.
“Don’t talk about politics” is a self-censor rule many overseas Chinese adopt, because they all know CCP spies are closely monitoring and reporting them. Anything they say or do may affect the safety and well-being of their loved ones back in China. No matter where they are, Chinese students and immigrants who disagree with the Chinese government seem incapable of escaping Beijing’s censorship and intimidation.
This is why I found reports in the United States about angry bystanders harassing Chinese Americans out of frustration for the pandemic to be especially troubling. The Asian Pacific Policy and Planning Council received more than 1,100 reports of coronavirus-related discrimination incident reports from Asian Americans across the country, since March 19, 2020. Some have even suggested expelling all Chinese students from U.S. college campuses and deporting them back home.
Punishing all Chinese people for the sins of the CCP is unfair and plays into the hands of the CCP’s propaganda. The CCP has been using racism in the United States as a wedge to sow distrust and division. The CCP attempts to amplify any racial incident in the United States for two purposes: 1) to convince the ethnically Chinese overseas that no matter what they do, they will never be accepted as equal in the West and will only gain respect by supporting the CCP, and 2) to crush any domestic political awakening and dissent.
Our best hope for a better and freer China without the iron fist of the CCP is the political awakening of the Chinese people. But if overseas Chinese are being discriminated against and rejected, why should domestic dissidents risk their lives to demand change? They may decide that since they won’t receive any support from the West, their only hope is to cheer for and defend the CCP’s policies with no questions asked. Therefore, any action or policy in the West which discriminates against Chinese people will become a propaganda victory for the CCP and perpetuate its staying power.
The CCP’s mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic is the latest example of the danger it poses to the rest of the world. We should do whatever it takes to hold the CCP accountable. In the meantime, we must distinguish between the CCP and the Chinese people, recognizing Chinese people’s own suffering, showing solidarity with them, and not handing the CCP a PR victory and a lifeline.