Beijing Resident Calls for Top Official’s Resignation Over Coronavirus Propaganda

March 5, 2020 Updated: March 6, 2020

A Beijing resident has called for a top Chinese official to resign over the state-directed propaganda lauding the authorities’ leadership amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The regime has deployed intense propaganda efforts to present an image that its leadership has been successful in outbreak containment measures.

A state-sanctioned book titled “A Major Nation’s Battle Against Epidemic” compiled over 100,000 words from state media reports to paint a picture of how the Chinese regime’s outbreak containment effort yielded a “positive trend” and showcased “clear advantage of Chinese Communist Party leadership.” Initially due to be published in five languages, the book was pulled from shelves on March 1, less than a week after its release, amid rising negative feedback.

Xue Fumin, a law school graduate from China’s prestigious Peking University in Beijing, wrote in an open letter recently posted on Chinese social media that propaganda like this has distracted people from the pressing task to combat the outbreak, and made the Chinese Communist Party a “laughing stock” to the world.

Xue cited the lead article published in the Chinese Communist Party’s official mouthpiece People’s Daily on Feb. 29 as another example. Headlined “Our Days Are Sweeter Than Honey,” the article described how Chinese leader Xi Jinping “braved the rain” three years ago to visit an 85-year-old in a northern ethnic village, which purportedly inspired a series of local economic stimulus policies that significantly boosted the villagers’ quality of life.

He called on Wang Huning, a senior Party official that oversees ideology and propaganda, to resign, saying he was unfit for the role.

“Despite the grim outlook in combating the outbreak, [Wang] turned a blind eye to human values and basic conscience,” Xue wrote. The identification number he listed showed that he was a resident of the Haidian district in Beijing.

“Instead of … striving to lessen people’s agony, apologizing to all Chinese nationals, and repenting to the world for its failure to take proper control measures during the outbreak’s early stage—a crime that led to the spillover of the epidemic and brought a disaster to the entire world—[Wang] bolstered the so-called accomplishments during the outbreak battle.

“This is typical bureaucracy and formalism,” Xue added.

Hiding a Crisis

China affairs commentator Cheng Xiaorong said the promotion of the now-canceled propagandist book is a hint the regime is undergoing an internal political crisis.

The outbreak had exposed the failure of the Party’s governance and its chaotic management, Cheng wrote in a column for the Chinese-language edition of The Epoch Times. This, Cheng said, was evidenced by the lack of responsibility displayed by Chinese officials amid the crisis, and the censorship of on-the-ground reporting in virus-hit areas.

Cheng said that the authorities’ handling of the outbreak has led more people to reflect on the importance of transparency, which goes hand-in-hand with public health and safety.

“Lies coming from the government are highly lethal to lives and the economy,” Cheng wrote.

beijing school walk
A resident wearing a mask walks outside a closed school with a mural depicting keywords including at right “Rule of law” in Beijing, on Feb. 25, 2020. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan)

The Epoch Times obtained a copy of a Feb. 23 document sent from Chaoyang city health commission in Liaoning Province to its provincial counterpart, the Liaoning health commission. The document stated that the city had, in line with instructions of the provincial health officials, destroyed “documents and data” related to the outbreak.

The document also stated that city government staff were required to sign a “letter of commitment” to destroy the previously received “document and data” from their laptops, flash drives, smartphones, and any photos or notes. Staff were not allowed to disclose the information to any other agency or individual, the document added.

One document marked for deletion was titled “information of close contacts of coronavirus patients,” according to a screenshot of Chaoyang city health commission’s internal database provided to The Epoch Times. The screenshot also showed that at least 13 Chaoyang government departments have signed the non-disclosure requirements.

Cheng questioned whether such practices could be limited to Chaoyang alone.

“How many lives, cases, and revelations might be hiding behind such data?” Cheng asked.

Warning against coronavirus “rumors,” Chinese state media have repeatedly cited Article 291 in the country’s criminal law, which sets prison term of up to seven years for anyone who is found guilty of spreading “fake information” about disasters or epidemics online.

On Feb. 5, authorities took down a popular entertainment app called Pipi Gaoxiao for sharing “harmful short videos about the pneumonia epidemic” and disseminating fears.

A teacher in southern China’s Guizhou Province recently spent 10 days in detention and lost his teaching license over some remarks on social media expressing doubts about official coronavirus death figures.

Cheng said the regime is “using its own interest to define what’s ‘healthy’ and ‘harmful.’”

“Chinese people are using their own health to pay for the Party’s crimes,” he added.

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