If China valued free speech, there would be no coronavirus crisis

Verna Yu in The Guardian: “…Despite the flourishing of social media, information is more tightly controlled in China than ever. In 2013, an internal Communist party edict known as Document No 9 ordered cadres to tackle seven supposedly subversive influences on society. These included western-inspired notions of press freedom, “universal values” of human rights, civil rights and civic participation. Even within the Communist party, cadres are threatened with disciplinary action for expressing opinions that differ from the leadership.

Compared with 17 years ago, Chinese citizens enjoy even fewer rights of speech and expression. A few days after 34-year-old Li posted a note in his medical school alumni social media group on 30 December, stating that seven workers from a local live-animal market had been diagnosed with an illness similar to Sars and were quarantined in his hospital, he was summoned by police. He was made to sign a humiliating statement saying he understood if he “stayed stubborn and failed to repent and continue illegal activities, (he) will be disciplined by the law”….

Unless Chinese citizens’ freedom of speech and other basic rights are respected, such crises will only happen again. With a more globalised world, the magnitude may become even greater – the death toll from the coronavirus outbreak is already comparable to the total Sars death toll.

Human rights in China may appear to have little to do with the rest of the world but as we have seen in this crisis, disaster could occur when China thwarts the freedoms of its citizens. Surely it is time the international community takes this issue more seriously….(More)”.