“China’s mishandling of the coronavirus outbreak has imperiled itself and the world because it is a land of 21st-century science and 19th-century politics.
Scholars in China predicted a year ago in an article in the journal Viruses that it was “highly likely” that there would be coronavirus outbreaks, calling it an “urgent issue.” Once the outbreak occurred, other Chinese scientists rapidly identified the virus and sequenced its DNA, posting it on Jan. 10 on a virology website for all to see. That was extraordinarily good and fast work.
Meanwhile, the Communist Party instinctively organized a cover-up, ordering the police to crack down on eight doctors accused of trying to alert others to the risks. National television programs repeatedly denounced the doctors as rumormongers.
One of those eight doctors, Li Wenliang, caught the virus and died — causing public outrage. Some Chinese make the point that if Li had been in charge of China, rather than President Xi Jinping, many lives might have been saved.
“The coronavirus epidemic has revealed the rotten core of Chinese governance,” a law professor in Beijing, Xu Zhangrun, wrote this month in an online essay that was immediately banned. “The level of popular fury is volcanic, and a people thus enraged may, in the end, also cast aside their fear.”
Xu certainly cast aside his own fear, predicting that he would face new punishments but adding, “I cannot remain silent.”
He called on his fellow Chinese citizens to demand free speech and free elections and urged: “Rage against injustice; let your lives burn with a flame of decency; break through stultifying darkness and welcome the dawn.”
Xu is now incommunicado, but it is remarkable to see the groundswell of anger online toward the dictatorship. Citizens can’t denounce Xi by name, but they are skilled in evading censors — such as by substituting President Trump’s name for Xi’s.”