The Chinese Communist Party’s delayed response to the novel coronavirus outbreak and the subsequent muzzling, disappearances and deaths of outspoken Chinese scholars, journalists and doctors could be a watershed moment for China comparable to Chernobyl’s impact on the Soviet Union.
That’s the position taken in an open letter published Tuesday by more than 100 China experts worldwide, including members of Canadian think-tank MacDonald-Laurier Institute.
“The roots of the pandemic are in a cover-up by CCP authorities in Wuhan, Hubei province.
Under the influence of the CCP, the World Health Organisation first downplayed the pandemic,” the letter stated.
“We should never forget that China’s Chernobyl moment was a self-inflicted wound. The CCP silenced Chinese doctors who wanted to warn other health professionals during the early stage of the outbreak.”
There is historical consensus the Soviet regime’s bungled response to Chernobyl’s nuclear power plant meltdown in 1986 was a key moment leading to glasnost and the eventual fall of that communist regime.
The letter initially addresses “Chinese citizens and friends of China at home and abroad.”
It claims the “global crisis has been caused by the regime so many of you have been tolerating or supporting for decades.”
The letter responds to a previous letter from CCP-friendly scholars that claimed anyone critical of China’s response is merely politicizing the pandemic. Those scholars also claimed the source and origin of COVID-19 remains undetermined. Regardless, pointing out the source and origin is unimportant and “finger pointing.”
The critical China experts retorted: “Only by understanding how this global disaster could emerge can we prevent it from happening again.”
They also took several stabs at the WHO.
“Taiwanese health officials also allege that they ignored their alerts of human-to-human transmission in late December. Under pressure from the CCP, democratic Taiwan—which has coped with the pandemic in exemplary fashion—is excluded from the WHO.”
Noted were the many independent Chinese dissidents who have died, disappeared or jailed: Professor Xu Zhangrun is under house arrest; dissident Chinese entrepreneur Ren Zhiqiang has disappeared; Dr. Ai Fen is silenced after colleague and outspoken doctor Li Wenliang died fighting the virus; and “the courageous citizen journalists Chen Qiushi, Fang Bin and Li Zehua, who tried to report freely about the situation in Wuhan, now are also missing.”
The letter claims there is a growing chorus of dissidents emerging from China and implores CCP-influenced scholars to consider critical thought.
“Rather than trusting the CCP’s intentions and accepting establishment academics’ uncritical approval of the party-state’s policies, we should pay greater attention to the voices of what can be termed ‘unofficial’ China. These independent-minded academics, doctors, entrepreneurs, citizen journalists, public interest lawyers and young students no longer accept the CCP’s rule by fear. Neither should you.”
Canadians signing the letter include Charles Burton, Duanjie Chen, J Michael Cole, Marcus Kolga and Anastasia Lin.
Also signing was journalist Jonathan Manthorpe, author of Claws of the Panda, which explores CCP campaigns of soft power influence in Canada.
Burton is associate professor at Brock University specializing in Canada-China Relations and human rights. The former counsellor at the Canadian Embassy to China recently spoke to the newly formed Special Committee on Canada-China Relations.
He pointed out that Dominic Barton, Canada’s new ambassador to China, has been using language “consistent with the official propaganda of the Chinese Communist Party under General Secretary Xi Jinping.”
Burton raised serious concerns about Chinese interference in the Canadian government and urged government to enact foreign influence laws.
“In general, on the Chinese state's penetration into Canada, we don't have adequate laws comparable to other nations about the transfer of classified technologies to agents of the Chinese state,” said Burton on February 24.
He also raised concerns about “China's desire to undermine the established institutions of the global order, the WTO and the United Nations.”
Post-pandemic Canada-China politics came to the forefront in Ottawa following a classified U.S. intelligence paper reported by Bloomberg that China had concealed the extent of its initial outbreak.
Canadian Health Minister Patty Hajdu said April 2 that questioning China’s COVID-19 numbers is playing into conspiracy theories. Hajdu reaffirmed on April 9 that China shared its gene sequencing in “early days.”