As the coronavirus pandemic sweeps the globe, one fact is increasingly clear: The Chinese Communist Party caused this crisis.
From the moment the coronavirus emerged in central China, Beijing has acted in a way that made a pandemic possible and then inevitable. It covered up what was happening in Wuhan. It silenced whistleblowers who sought to warn the world. It stole medical supplies from other countries, even while claiming the sickness was no big deal.
At every stage, the Chinese Communist Party has lied. Now at least 50,000 people have died. And the number is growing by the minute.
Beijing’s culpability is the result of its oppression — its “socialism with Chinese characteristics.” The only way to stop a spreading sickness is to spread information even faster, giving people and countries the facts and the time to prevent a pandemic. China’s rulers made that impossible. Starting in December, communist authorities cracked down on anyone talking about the coronavirus.
When a brave doctor warned his peers online, he was summoned by police in the middle of the night and forced to write a “self-criticism” — a classic communist method of silencing dissenters that forces them to confess supposed crimes. When Chinese journalists wrote about the sickness, their work was censored. When average citizens took to social media to share the facts, they were silenced. Beijing did everything in its power to prevent the outside world from figuring out what was really going on.
The truth was terrifying, although largely unknown beyond China’s borders. U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that China systematically hid the real number of sick people, as well as the number of deaths. Sure enough, in mid-January, Beijing still claimed that only a few dozen people were infected with the coronavirus. The real totals of people infected and deaths were likely far higher, as my organization was already hearing from dissidents within China.
Beijing’s lies lulled the world into a false sense of security. By concealing the extent of the coronavirus, China caused other countries to assume the situation was under control, or at least that they had more time to prepare. A senior White House official pointed out that Chinese data caused the medical community in the United States to think “this was serious, but smaller than anyone expected… we were missing a significant amount of the data.”
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Ultimately, China’s incomplete picture led to insufficient plans in other countries. But Beijing’s omissions and lies didn’t just include the number of infected people. They also covered up the nature of the coronavirus itself. In doing so, Beijing violated international treaty obligations to which China is a signatory, including the International Health Regulations (2005).
If they had just been honest
Beijing denied until January 20th that human to human transmission was occurring. Yet at the same time, Chinese officials and state-owned companies were urgently acquiring bulk medical supplies —especially personal protective equipment like masks and gloves — from Australia, Europe, and around the world. Put simply, Beijing hoarded the world’s life-saving resources while falsely claiming that people’s lives weren’t at risk.
The results have been tragic. China’s actions made other countries less able to contain coronavirus outbreaks. In some cases, those outbreaks were perhaps already underway but unknown, because China lied about the sickness’ spread. By that point, a pandemic was only a matter of time.
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Now the world is facing upheaval unseen since the Second World War. Whole countries are shut down. Borders are closed. Economies are unraveling. Governments are mobilizing for an extended struggle. Billions of people are terrified.
But all of this was preventable, if the Chinese Communist Party had just been honest.
If Beijing had allowed doctors in China to raise the alarm and contain the threat, the virus could have been stopped in its tracks.
If Beijing had accurately described how the virus spread, people from New York to New Delhi could have prepared accordingly.
If Beijing had given the real number of infected people and deaths, other countries would have recognized the danger, and taken necessary steps.
But Beijing wasn’t honest. It lied. It is lying still. As a result, more than a million people are sick, and millions could die before the year is out.
Their blood is on the Chinese Communist Party’s hands. If the coronavirus crisis proves anything, it’s that communism — its logic, its brutality, its incompetence — is still a grave threat to the entire world.
The sooner communism is swept into the dustbin of history, the safer we’ll all be.
Marion Smith is executive director of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter: @smithmarion
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Blame the Chinese Communist Party for the coronavirus crisis