Should Chinese Communist Party Officials Who Concealed Information About the Coronavirus Pandemic Be Sanctioned?
Do you support sanctions against CCP officials who concealed key public health information about coronavirus?
by Countable | 6.10.20
What’s the story?
- The Chinese Communist Party has faced global criticism for failing to share information about the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak with the rest of the world during the early stages of the pandemic, and retaliating against doctors who attempted to publicly disclose that information. An internal report likened the backlash against the Chinese Communist Party to that which followed the CCP’s actions in the Tiananmen Square Massacre.
- Among those doctors from Wuhan, China ― where the outbreak originated ― was Dr. Li Wenliang, who shared information in a WeChat group to warn chat participants & their families to take precautions in late December. His posts were later shared more broadly on the Chinese internet, which led to Li being interrogated & reprimanded by security officials. He later contracted coronavirus while working at the hospital & died of the illness.
- Additional reporting from the Associated Press, Wall Street Journal, and other outlets indicates that the Chinese government ordered the destruction of virus samples, withheld them from global public health officials for weeks in January, and delayed informing the world for six days that COVID-19 was capable of human-to-human transmission.
- To punish the Chinese Communist Party officials responsible and other public health officials who suppress critical information about future outbreaks, the Li Wenliang Global Public Health Accountability Act was introduced by Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR) & Rep. John Curtis (R-UT).
- Modeled after the Magnitsky Act, which allows sanctions on foreign individuals & entities that violate human rights, the Li Wenliang Global Public Health Accountability Act would allow the imposition of property- and visa-blocking sanctions against foreign individuals & entities involved in deliberately concealing information about a global public health emergency.
Timeline of the Chinese Communist Party’s Response
- Mid-December 2019: On December 10th one of the earliest known coronavirus patients, Wei Guixian, began feeling ill. On December 16th, he was admitted to the Wuhan Central Hospital with infections in both lungs.
- December 27th: Health officials in Wuhan were alerted that a novel coronavirus is the cause of the illness.
- December 30th: Ai Fen, a director at Wuhan Central Hospital, posted information on We Chat about the new virus. She was reprimanded & told not to spread information about the virus. Another doctor Wuhan, Li Wenliang, shared information about the new virus in a private WeChat group to warn the group members and their families to take protective measures. Li’s information was circulated more broadly on the Chinese internet and he was questioned by his hospital’s supervision department.
- December 31st: China notified the World Health Organization’s (WHO) China office that it is dealing with cases of an unknown illness and ordered the closure of the “wet market” they think is related to the virus’ spread. Taiwanese officials warned the WHO that they observed evidence of human-to-human transmission of an “atypical pneumonia” similar to SARS that required patient isolation.
- January 1st, 2020: An official at the Hubei Provincial Health Commission ordered labs to stop testing samples of the novel virus and to destroy existing samples. The Wuhan Public Security Bureau questions eight doctors who posted information about the illness on social media.
- January 2nd: Chinese researchers mapped the genome of the novel coronavirus but don’t make the information public.
- January 3rd: Police from the Wuhan Public Security Bureau interrogated Li and issued him a formal written reprimand for “making false comments on the internet”, made him sign an admonition letter not to do it again, and warned him that he could be prosecuted. China's National Health Commission orders labs not to disclose information to the public and to either destroy virus samples or send them to government labs.
- January 8th: Li contracted the coronavirus at the hospital after returning to work. He was admitted to the intensive care unit four days later. The Wall Street Journal reported that Chinese scientists have identified the new coronavirus.
- January 9th: The Chinese government announced that it mapped the coronavirus genome.
- January 11th: A team at the Shanghai Public Health Clinical Center published a sequence of the coronavirus genome's, prompting anger from the Chinese CDC which temporarily shuttered the lead scientist's lab.
- January 12th: The Chinese CDC, Wuhan Institute of Virology, and Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences jointly publish their genomic data.
- January 11-17th: The Wuhan Health Commission insisted there were no new cases of coronavirus.
- January 14th: The WHO announced that Chinese health officials have found “no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus.” In a confidential meeting the same day, the head of Chinese National Health Commission indicated that “clustered cases suggest that human-to-human transmission is possible.”
- January 15th: The patient who became the first confirmed U.S. case departed Wuhan and arrived in the U.S.
- Mid-January: Recordings of WHO meetings obtained by the Associated Press reveal that despite the agency's public praise of China's response, its expert epidemiologists were growing frustrated by China's refusal to share critical information with the agency.
- January 20th: Chinese President Xi made his first public comments on the virus, and a leading Chinese epidemiologist publicly announced for the first time that the virus was transmissible from person-to-person.
- January 21st: China’s political commission in charge of law & order warns that “anyone who deliberately delays and hides the reporting of [virus] cases out of his or her own self-interest will be nailed on the pillar of shame for eternity.” (The warning was later removed.)
- January 23rd: The WHO announced that coronavirus is transmissible from person-to-person. China imposed a lockdown of Wuhan and three other cities on lockdown after roughly 5 million people left the city without being screened for the virus.
- January 28th: Top officials at the WHO travel to Beijing to meet with President Xi & senior Chinese officials to request information.
- January 29th: The WHO announced China would accept help from an international team of experts.
- January 30th: Dr. Tedros, the leader of the WHO, declared an international public health emergency and said “the Chinese government is to be congratulated for the extraordinary measures it has taken to contain the outbreak” and that he has “absolutely no doubt about China’s commitment to transparency”.
- January 31st: Li posted on social media about his experience at the police station with a copy of his letter of admonition, and the post went viral.
- February 6th: Li died of coronavirus.
- March 11th: The WHO declared the COVID-19 outbreak a pandemic.
— Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: Dong Fang - VOA Chinese / Public Domain)
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