We know the People’s Republic of China has been covering up its response to the release of the COVID-19 virus, but here’s a firsthand account that will chill you. It really is like something out of a spy thriller.
Chinese “citizen journalist” Li Zehua disappeared on February 26, after posting video on YouTube, Twitter and Weibo from his own car of being ambushed and followed by a white SUV and finally making it home but, hours later, having his apartment entered by three agents.
Prior to this happening, Li was working for the State-sanctioned broadcaster CCTV and had traveled to Wuhan to report on the coronavirus after another journalist “disappeared.” Li dared to report on the efforts of one neighborhood committee to hush up the reporting of new infections. Apparently the State decided he was taking his duties a bit too seriously, as his reports also involved interviewing the sick and visiting a crematorium where an employee said they were being paid extra to transport bodies.
At the time of his reports, he was outspoken about what he had seen, saying, “I don’t want to remain silent, or shut my eyes and ears. It’s not that I can’t have a nice life, with a wife and kids. I can. I’m doing this because I hope more young people can, like me, stand up.”
As Li was being pursued, he got it on video. He made it back to his apartment but then saw police and men in protective gear knocking on his neighbors’ doors. So he turned out all his lights and waited silently in front of his computer for hours. When the knock finally came, three men who identified themselves as “public security” officials entered his apartment and made him go with them to the police station, where they had him turn over his devices to a friend and told him he was being detained and investigated on charges of “disrupting public order.”
He wasn’t jailed, technically, but was kept “in quarantine” in Wuhan and later in his hometown, which is in a different province. Officials said the quarantine was being done because he had visited “sensitive epidemic areas.” Apparently, he was monitored by security guards, served three meals a day and was allowed to watch the CCTV evening newscast. Isn’t that nice?
He re-entered society on March 28. But some of those covering the story of his re-emergence have noticed that Li’s newly uncritical, patriotic tone is markedly different from the way it was before law enforcement took him in. “Throughout the whole time, the police acted civilly and legally,” he said after his release, “making sure I had rest and food. They really cared about me.” So nice. He said that since he got back, he had been spending time with his wife and family. He wished those who had been suffering from the disease a fast recovery. “May God bless China and the people of the world unite,” he said.
At the close of the new video he made on Wednesday, he quoted a cryptic line from Confucius about staying true to one’s beliefs: “The human heart is unpredictable, restless. Its affinity to what is right is small. Be discriminating, be uniform so that you may hold fast.”
When award-winning Chinese author and Wuhan resident Fang Fang documented online her life under the coronavirus lockdown and agreed to publish her journal in other languages, she began receiving threats. Apparently, her diary is not anything like the “official” account.
For example, in a post from February 13, she describes the scene inside a local crematorium. She tells the story of receiving a picture from a friend who is a doctor; it shows the floor of the facility littered with the cell phones of people who had been incinerated. The scale of death was apparently much larger than officials had said publicly.
Many of her posts have been deleted, she said in an interview last week with Chinese outlet Caijing (whose piece was –- surprise –- also deleted); her Weibo account (it’s like Twitter) was temporarily blocked; and she has received threats that make her worry for her family’s safety, as her home address was published.
For writing about the fear, anger and hope of Wuhan residents being kept in isolation, as well as “sensitive” topics such as overwhelmed hospitals turning away patients, shortages of basic supplies, the death of relatives, and –- worst of all –- daring to have the work published in English and German, she is being called a traitor.
Much more detail of her fascinating story is at the link. And read on to learn what we know about the two coronavirus whistleblowers who are still missing.
NATIONAL REVIEW reports that U.S. officials believe the ChiComms have spread already-existing misinformation about coronavirus through fake social media accounts and also through text messages, which Americans, in turn, shared on their networks. For example, one fake text message claimed the Department of Homeland Security had announced the Trump administration would impose a lockdown “as soon as they have troops in place to help prevent looters and rioters.” This one spread so widely (no doubt given a big push by anti-Trump media) that the National Security Council took the rare step of publicly denying its content.
According to one senior American official, agencies are looking into whether misinformation was being spread by Chinese spies on diplomatic missions in the U.S.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in a Wednesday interview with Laura Ingraham, said “we still don’t have the transparency and openness we need in China,” and he blamed the World Health Organization for failing to achieve that transparency. “We need a structural fix for the W.H.O.,” he said, adding that we may never be able to give funds to that organization again.
Pompeo wouldn’t commit to saying the virus came out of the biolab, saying only that “we don’t know precisely where it started,” because China has denied access to investigators. He chuckled lightly at suggestions from the likes of former Secretary of State John Kerry that we should work with China. We’d love to work with China, Pompeo said, but you have to have a partner who is willing to do that.
One thing you have to say about Mike Pompeo: when it comes to the ChiComms –- and to most things, come to think of it –- he’s a master of understatement.