Voice of America reported that the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP’s) main media covered quite a lot about the party event on celebrating the Chinese New Year, while it paid very little attention to the Wuhan lockdown and the coronavirus epidemic. On January 24, the first day that the Chinese media took the time to report on the Wuhan lockdown, the front page of People’s Daily didn’t mention Wuhan or the epidemic at all. Instead it covered the CCP Central Committee’s celebration of the Chinese New Year and Xi Jinping’s speech at the celebration. Xi didn’t mention Wuhan in his speech either. Neither did the second and third pages mention Wuhan.
The fourth page had an article about the epidemic on the lower part of the page. The main point was, “From the CCP Central to the local area, from the medical staff to the general public, with the common goal of conquering the epidemic, people have formed a strong force to prevent and control it.” It also said that there are plenty of supplies, food, and medical materials for Wuhan. It didn’t mention the number of infected cases, the latest developments in the epidemic, or what measures the government plans to take to control the epidemic.
Guangming Daily, another party mouthpiece, Economic Daily (under the State Council) and PLA Daily all had a similar focus in their reporting. Wuhan was only mentioned on a not-so-important page.
Unlike the communist media, the Western media have maintained a main focus on the Wuhan lockdown and on the epidemic. On January 23, the Wall Street Journal had a Wuhan epidemic image in the center of its front page, with the title, “China Locks Down City of 11 Million Where the Virus Originated.” The New York Times had, “China Closes off City at the Center of Virus Outbreak” on its front page. Financial Times also gave the news a significant focus. On January 24, Financial Times, the Washington Post, and the New York Times put the epidemic on their front pages.
Hu Ping, a Chinese political commentator said this shows that the media outside of China truly cares about Wuhan and its people.
Xi Jinping gave an important direction on January 20 regarding the epidemic: “(We) must strengthen the guidance of public opinion, strengthen the spreading and explanation of relevant policies and measures, and resolutely maintain the stability of society to ensure people remain calm and peaceful during the Chinese New Year holidays.”
Source: Voice of America, January 25, 2020
Hubei Province, the province where the epidemic is most severe, held a press conference on January 26. Governor Wang Xiaodong, the Wuhan city mayor Zhou Xianwang, and other officials spoke at the conference. A series of mistakes they made at the press conference angered many Chinese netizens.
Governor Wang Xiaodong didn’t wear a mask at the press conference. This was a violation of Wuhan’s regulation that wearing a mask in a public area was compulsory. Netizens also pointed out that the Wuhan mayor, Zhou Xianwang, wore his mask incorrectly. It was inside out. People were critical of the mayor. If the mayor does not know how to wear a mask, “how could ordinary people know?” Some even called these officials “incompetent and irresponsible politicians.”
In China, criticisms of politicians are often quickly removed from cyberspace, but this time the speed of angry comments from the people even exceeded the speed of the online censorship. One online post criticizing the press conference received more than 680 million views on Weibo, a Chinese social media platform.
Netizens also focused on the inaccuracies in governor Wang’s speech. When referring to the annual output of masks in Hubei Province, he repeatedly revised the data first from 10.8 billion to 1.8 billion and then he reduced it to 1.08 million. One netizen was puzzled, “As the governor, how can you not know how many masks Hubei produces?”
Hubei Province is the epicenter of the outbreak. Wuhan pneumonia has reportedly killed at least 81 people and infected more than 2,700 people worldwide, including in the United States, Australia and Taiwan.
Source: Central News Agency, January 28, 2020
On January 23, 2020, Wuhan announced a “lockdown” of the city because of the outbreak of the coronavirus epidemic. On the same day, eight major hospitals in Wuhan requested the public donation of face masks and other medical materials. The government also issued a donation request, but stated that it would not accept donations from overseas.
The government donation request was issued in the No. 4 Announcement of the recently established Wuhan Novel Coronavirus Prevention and Control Command Center. The announcement stated, “Temporarily do not accept materials not related to epidemic prevention and control, or donations from overseas.”
Sing Tao Daily reported that despite Wuhan’s refusal of overseas help, many Chinese lived overseas and were still donating money and materials and trying to find channels to ship the medical materials to Wuhan.
Radio Free Asia reported that a Chinese netizen commented on the Internet, “The group of doctors is usually the most obedient. Normally, if hospitals run out of materials, they go to the supervising government office or other hospitals for help. If they need to go to the public for donations, the government will handle the request and then distribute the received goods among the hospitals. This time Wuhan hospitals made the announcement on their own. That is, uniformly, a slap in the face for the Wuhan government. It showed that the medical community in Wuhan was totally sad, disappointed, and desperate (because of what the government did), and could no longer tolerate it.”
Radio Free Asia also commented on the Wuhan government’s not accepting overseas donations. It said that the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) did not want to lose face. Claiming itself to be “leading the world” and handing out tens of billions of dollars every time it visited Africa, Xi Jinping and the CCP do not want to make themselves look bad by asking for help from other countries.
1. People’s Daily, January 23, 2020
2. Sing Tao Daily, January 24, 2020
3. Radio Free Asia, January 24, 2020
Since the outbreak of the new coronavirus, Taiwan has confirmed at least one case of the Wuhan pneumonia. Nevertheless, Taiwan was not invited to join other member states with confirmed cases in an emergency meeting that WHO (the World Health Organization) held on Wednesday January 22.
On Wednesday, in its response to the Wuhan pneumonia epidemic, the Chinese Foreign Ministry’s spokesman Geng Shuang said at a regular press conference regarding Taiwan’s exclusion from the WHO, “No one cares more about the health and well-being of Taiwan compatriots than the Chinese central government.” On Taiwan’s participation in international organizations, Geng said, “Reasonable arrangements must be made through cross-strait consultations under the one-China principle.”
The Taiwan government responded to Geng’s statement with dissatisfaction, regret, and condemnation. Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson Joanne OU said on Thursday that, while the pneumonia epidemic in Wuhan has “intensified sharply and continued to spread outward,” not only did the Chinese Foreign Ministry not “share the facts about the epidemic’s situation” with Taiwan, but it also “posed as the central government and played politics” to denigrate Taiwan’s national sovereignty status. “The Taiwan Ministry of Foreign Affairs deeply regrets such a bad act on China’s part and condemns it.”
In an interview with the VOA, Richard Bush, a senior researcher at the East Asian Studies Center at the Brookings Institute, said that the handling of the new coronavirus put China in an awkward situation, but Beijing’s political operations may “not be a bad thing. It actually let people see clearly what kind of government it is.”
Source: Voice of America, January 23, 2020
Xinhua reported on January 25th, the first day of the Chinese New Year, that Chinese President Xi Jinping held a meeting of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the Chinese Communist Party Central Committee. The Chinese top leadership meeting focused on fighting the Wuhan Pneumonia epidemic. The meeting officially formed the Epidemic Central Leadership Working Group, directly reporting to the Standing Committee. The Working Group is dispatching guiding groups to key provinces where outbreaks occur to strengthen “frontline combat.” The meeting requires the nation to listen to the central command, enhance the coordination of a number of activities, ensure the distribution of medical and other supplies, protect the medical personnel, stabilize the domestic market, and strengthen the guidance of public opinion. The State Council was tasked with the coordination of the operational work across the nation. The meeting also established the principles for the central management of patients, the central management of medical experts, the central coordination of resources and supplies, as well as centralized rescue and treatment. Under these principles, the plan is to appoint or set up central hospitals and medical camps nationwide dedicated to this disease, to coordinate and combine both military and civilian medical supplies, to establish treatment procedures with both Western and Chinese traditional practices, and to prepare enough financial support for the needs. The meeting also required increasing the monitoring network for early signs and early reports; sanitizing key public places like food markets, transportation hubs and means; and developing new medicines. The meeting emphasized the importance of controlling public opinion and communication. As part of the plan, China is also willing to cooperate with international organizations like WHO (the World Health Organization) and the authorities of other nations and regions to contain the disease.
Source: Xinhua, January 25, 2020
Recently, several alumni from the Free University of Berlin (FUB) published an open letter to Germany’s Federal Minister of Education and Research, the Mayor of Berlin, and the President of FUB, calling for clarification on the issue of China funding a German professorship position in the East Asian Studies Department. They called for an immediate end to such a practice. The advocate of the open letter, David Missal, had been deported from China in August 2018 for following the story of a Chinese activist lawyer who the regime had suppressed.
According to the Berlin based Daily Mirror newspaper, the Chinese government agency Hanban has being funding a professorship at FUB. The professor will create a Chinese teaching program while, at the same time, serving as the head of the Confucius Institutes in Berlin. The newspaper also reported that the German government was aware that Hanban is a cultural institution under the Propaganda Department of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and that China and the CCP are trying to exert influence on Germany’s China scholars through the activities of the Confucius Institutes, which have close ties with Hanban. Signatories of the open letter are worried that such a language teaching program will exclude articles that are critical of the CCP. Because this professorship receives funding from China, it faces a greater risk of self-censorship. One cannot even rule out the possibility that the CCP will fund political science professorships in the future.
The open letter made four requests. These include the exposure of the contents of the contract signed between Hanban and the FUB on the professor position; clarification of the channels via which such an agreement was reached; an announcement of the measures planned to prevent Hanban and the CCP’s influence on teaching contents; and a request that either Hanban’s contract for this new professor position be terminated immediately or the position be funded through other channels.
The Daily Mirror reported in December of last year that the Liberal Democratic Party’s parliamentary group warned against China’s influence over German universities through cultural institutions. There are currently 19 Confucius Institutes in Germany, most of which cooperate with German universities. The Confucius Institute at the Free University of Berlin started in 2006. It is the first Confucius Institute in Germany.
Source: Deutsche Welle, January 21, 2020