Coronavirus: The information heroes China silenced

Quelle:  Reporter Without Borders

Coronavirus: The information heroes China silenced

"Three months after the first reports of coronavirus cases were posted on Chinese social media and began circulating within civil society, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) looks back at the way the Chinese state, in its obsession with complete control over information, has cracked down relentlessly on all independent information outlets.

As journalistic freedom has been reduced to the barest minimum within China’s traditional media, it is ordinary citizens who usually step into the breach in such cases. In this case, the first was Li Wenliang, an ophthalmologist at Wuhan Central Hospital, where the first coronavirus cases were seen in November, although no one understood the nature of the illness at the time. Li was the first to blow the whistle on the possibility of a coronavirus pandemic.

“Dr. Li was like many within the Chinese population who want to report the reality of what is going on and alert their fellow citizens about government negligence,” said Daniel Bastard, the head of RSF’s Asia-Pacific desk. “The coronavirus crisis has drawn attention to the deep thirst for reliable information within Chinese society, which is saturated with propaganda. Xi Jinping’s government has responded with deadly brutality.”

Armed with the photo of a test, Li spoke about the ongoing epidemic for the first time on 30 December with former faculty of medicine students in a private discussion group on the messaging service WeChat. The alarm was sounded. His messages were shared very widely on the microblogging website Weibo.

But they were also seen by the authorities. Two days later, on 1 January, Li and seven other doctors were questioned. Li was grilled for several hours and, on 3 January, the police forced him to sign a statement recognizing that he had “spread false rumours.” ....

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