Friday, 8 May 2020


Breaking down China’s great wall of silence
China deliberately concealed information about the coronavirus, and it has fought for weeks against calls for an inquiry. So what is Beijing hiding?

May 9, 2020
  • 3 MINUTE READ
This is the first part of a five-part investigation by Cameron Stewart and Will Glasgow on China and the coronavirus. Read part two here; part three here; part four here; and part five here
On January 3, Robert Redfield, head of the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, picked up the phone to his counterpart in China to ask him about rumours of a new and potentially deadly virus. Gao Fu, head of the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, did not hold back. He burst into tears as he told Redfield about the mysterious new disease that had emerged in Wuhan.
Redfield was surprised. The Chinese government had yet to report its first death. While China had told the World Health Organisation’s Beijing office that a mysterious pneumonia had been found in Wuhan, it had not given any outward indication that things were serious.
Redfield rang US Health Secretary Alex Azar, who contacted the White House’s National ­Security Council, and within days, on January 6, the Trump administration had offered to send a team of America’s best disease experts to China.
“We made the offer to send the CDC experts in to assist their Chinese colleagues to get to the bottom of key scientific questions like, how transmissible is this disease? What is the severity? What is the incubation period? And can there be asymptomatic transmission?” says Azar.
CHINA'S GREAT WALL OF SILENCE ON COVID-19

But Beijing said no.
“China nice-talked it for a month,” says Kenneth Cuccinelli, a top US Homeland Security official. “ ‘Oh, well, thank you for the offer. Blah, blah.’ ”
What the White House did not know at that moment was that China was concealing from the world what it knew of a disease that was about to turn life as we know it upside down.
As an angry US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo put it this week: “This is an enormous crisis created by the fact that the Chinese Communist Party reverted to form, reverted to the kinds of disinformation, the kinds of concealment that authoritarian regimes do. The Chinese Communist Party had the opportunity to prevent all of the calamity that has befallen the world, and here we find ourselves today.”
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Picture: AP
Now, with the Chinese-born virus cutting a swath of death and economic destruction across the globe, Beijing is being asked to ­explain.
Specifically, it is being asked to explain exactly how the virus began and why China underplayed to the world the disease’s ability to spread and kill.
Beijing stands accused of ­robbing the rest of the world of valuable time to prepare for the pandemic that was about to be ­unleashed.
For weeks, China kept to itself what would become the world’s deadliest secret. It concealed what it knew even from its own people. It buried the truth and punished doctors and reporters who tried to tell it. It let its own people travel across the world, knowing they could be carrying a highly contagious killer virus. In short, Beijing’s lies helped to infect the rest of the world.

TIMELINE
NOV 17, 2019
First identified patient
First identified patient infected with what was later named COVID-19 was found in Hubei on November 17, according to a report in the South China Morning Post.

TIMELINE
DEC 10, 2019
Prawn seller sick
Wei Guixian, a prawn seller in downtown Wuhan’s South China Seafood Wholesale Market, starts feeling sick.
TIMELINE
DEC 30, 2019
Lab test results
Dr Ai Fen, the head of the emergency department at Wuhan Central, receives results from a laboratory test into the mysterious disease. She shares the results with her medical colleagues, including D Li Wenliang.
TIMELINE
DEC 31, 2019
“Pneumonia of unknown cause”
World Health Organization’s Beijing office informed of a “pneumonia of unknown cause”, detected in Wuhan. Informed some patients were operating dealers or vendors in the Huanan Seafood market. 
TIMELINE
DEC 31, 2019
“Spreading rumours”
Dr Li Wenliang is summoned to the Wuhan Public Security Bureau and told off for “spreading rumours”.  
TIMELINE
JAN 1, 2020
Dr Ai reprimanded
Dr Ai is reprimanded by Wuhan Central hospital officials for sharing information about the new virus with medical colleagues 
TIMELINE
JAN 3, 2020
US informed, samples destroyed
China first tells the US about the new virus and begins giving daily updates on the virus to the WHO; on the same day China's National Health Commission orders institutions in Wuhan not to publish any information related to the unknown disease and to destroy samples of the disease. 
TIMELINE
JAN 6, 2020
US rebuffed
Trump administration offers to send a team of America’s best disease experts to China. Beijing says no.
TIMELINE
JAN 14, 2020
“Most severe challenge since SARS”
At a closed meeting, the head of China’s National Health Commission says the situation is “the most severe challenge since SARS”; on the same day the WHO repeats that “the virus does not spread readily between people”. 
TIMELINE
JAN 20, 2020
Human-to-human transmission
President Xi Jinping first publicly addresses the virus in comments published in China’s state media; in an interview on China’s state television station, Chinese doctor Zhong Nanshan confirms the virus can spread between humans.
TIMELINE
JAN 21, 2020
Coronavirus first mentioned by Scott Morrison
The PM mentions the virus publicly for the first time in a TV interview, amid reports of people with SARS-like symptoms in Wuhan. “I should stress that (the Chief Medical Officer’s) advice has been that this virus is not at the sort of extreme level of what the SARS virus has,” he said.
TIMELINE
JAN 23, 2020
Wuhan in lockdown
Wuhan, the capital of Hubei, is put into a lockdown. It lasts for 72 days.
TIMELINE
JAN 24, 2020
China travel bans
Travel bans imposed on almost all of Hubei, population 60 million.
TIMELINE
JAN 25, 2020
Australia’s first case
Australia records its first case of coronavirus.
TIMELINE
JAN 27, 2020
China travel suspension
China suspends group travel to foreign countries; the same day Wuhan’s mayor says China’s centralised political system did not allow him to reveal the true situation earlier: "As a local government, we need to get authorisation before disclosure”.
TIMELINE
JAN 31, 2020
US bans China travellers
Trump bans entry by foreign nationals who had recently visited China; Chinese officials say the ban “neither based in fact nor helpful”.
TIMELINE
FEB 1, 2020
Australia bans China travellers
The government bans entry for all travellers from mainland China, except Australians and permanent residents. Official travel advice to Australians for China is raised to Level Four – “Do not travel.” 
TIMELINE
FEB 7, 2020
Dr Li Wenliang dies
Trump tweets that President Xi is “strong, sharp and focussed on leading the counterattack” on the virus and that “discipline is taking place in China as President Xi strongly leads”; Dr Li Wenliang dies after being infected with COVID-19.
TIMELINE
FEB 13, 2020
Australia’s China ban extended
The travel ban is extended. The Chinese Embassy condemns the move with “deep regret and dissatisfaction”. 
TIMELINE
FEB 24, 2020
Aylward praises China
The WHO’s delayed China joint mission ends with a press conference in Beijing. The mission’s head Bruce Aylward praises China for its transparency.
TIMELINE
FEB 27, 2020
Australia prepares for a pandemic
Morrison effectively declares a pandemic ahead of the WHO. “We believe that the risk of a global pandemic is very much upon us and as a result, as a government, we need to take the steps necessary to prepare for such a pandemic.” 
TIMELINE
MAR 12, 2020
China suggests US origin
China’s foreign ministry spokesman Zhoa Lijina suggests that the virus may have originated in the US.
TIMELINE
MAR 19, 2020
Australia closes borders
Morrison and Foreign Minister Marise Payne announce Australia will close its borders to all non-citizens and non-residents from 9pm the following day. 
TIMELINE
MAR 23, 2020
“World should thank” China
The state-run Xinhua news agency claimed that the “world should thank” China for its early response to the virus.
TIMELINE
APR 3, 2020
Wet markets a "very real problem"
Morrison tells 2GB’s Alan Jones that Chinese wet markets are “a very real and significant problem”, which “the World Health Organisation should do something about”. 
TIMELINE
APR 15, 2020
World Health Organisation
Morrison declines to back Trump’s move to suspend funding for the WHO. He says he sympathises with the President’s criticisms of the body, but declares the body “does a lot of important work, including here in our own region in the Pacific”. 
TIMELINE
APR 17, 2020
Wuhan death toll increased
Chinese authorities retrospectively increase Wuhan’s death toll by 50 per cent.
TIMELINE
APR 19, 2020
Call for an independent review
Payne calls on the ABC’s Insiders for an independent review into the pandemic. She calls for “transparency” from China, saying it is “fundamental” to examine the origins of the virus and its development into a pandemic. Morrison later confirms the proposal has “my very, very strong support”. 
TIMELINE
APR 27, 2020
Inquiry is “dangerous”
China’s Ambassador Cheng Jingye, in the AFR, warns Australia’s push for an inquiry is "dangerous", and could result in Chinese consumer boycotts of Australian goods and services. Payne lashes the comments, branding them “economic coercion”.
TIMELINE
MAY 1, 2020
Morrison refutes lab source claims
Morrison pushes back against claims that the virus came from a Wuhan lab. “There's nothing that we have that would indicate that was the likely source,” Morrison says. "The most likely scenario ... relates to wildlife wet markets, but that's a matter that would have to be thoroughly assessed.”
TIMELINE
MAY 5, 2020
Seeking support for an inquiry
Morrison reveals he has written to all G20 leaders, including China, seeking support for his proposed inquiry into the coronavirus. 

+
The Trump administration says China’s bad behaviour has cost hundreds of thousands of lives around the world, and nowhere more than in the US where upwards of 75,000 people have died in just over two months — a toll greater than the wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan combined.
China is confronting the biggest blow to its international reputation since Tiananmen Square, but it has hit back, denying that it deceived the world over the coronavirus. Its Foreign Ministry this week accused the US of attacking it for its own political motives.
“(The US has) only one objective: to try to shirk responsibility for their own epidemic and prevention and control measures and ­divert public attention,” said a spokesman.
‘Who in the world wouldn’t want an investigation of how this happened to the world?’
China’s ambassador to the US, Cui Tiankai, said the US in particular had fallen into “the absurd mindset of ‘always blame China’. Simply put, for some people China has to be wrong, regardless of the facts.”
Such is Beijing’s sensitivity that when Scott Morrison called for an independent and impartial international inquiry into the origins of the pandemic, China threatened blunt economic retaliation.
“Who in the world wouldn’t want an investigation of how this happened to the world,” Pompeo said as he backed Australia’s call.
So what is China trying to hide?
Share this article
·        Facebook
·        Twitter
·        Email





No comments:

Post a comment