OBT: China’s Censorship and the Spread of Coronavirus
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What is it?
- Since December 31, 2019 the world has been reeling with the news about Coronavirus – a deadly virus that has already infected more than 80,000 globally and killed at least 2,700. While the epicenter is in the Hubei Province of China, other hot spots have emerged around the world, including Italy, Japan, South Korea and Iran. Although the virus is highly contagious, the World Health Organization reports that the fatality rate is still only between 2% and 4% in Wuhan, and just 0.7% outside Wuhan.
- Chinese police arrested whistleblower Dr. Li Wenliang on January 3 in Wuhan for “spreading false rumors” and “disrupting social order,” while he was simply trying to get the Chinese government to respond to the early signs of the virus. Dr. Li died of Coronavirus on February 21, but his story about the government’s attempts to censor his free speech and hide the virus sparked outrage across China. Following Li’s death, on Chinese social media app Weibo ( a Chinese government-controlled Twitter-like app) “we want free speech” and Hong Kong’s Do You Hear the People Sing were both trending topics before they were removed.
- The Chinese government has also cracked down on international free speech by kicking out three Wall Street Journal reporters for writing an article titled China is the Real Sick Man of Asia. Interestingly enough, the article focuses mainly on the outbreak’s implications on the Chinese economy and since the outbreak began, markets worldwide have taken a hit as experts anticipate a slowdown in the global economy.
Why is it important?
- China’s domestic and international censorship of the Coronavirus has almost certainly intensified the outbreak. In silencing Dr. Li and slowing efforts to prevent the spread of the virus, the Chinese government drastically altered the potential to contain the outbreak within Wuhan. Similarly in 2003, the government attempted to cover up the SARS virus outbreak which infected more than 8,000 and killed about 800 across 17 countries.
- Information sharing and global action are the best ways to combat the spread of Coronavirus. It has implications on a global scale, so only a unified response can abate the loss of life and other economic and social effects caused by the virus. Many of the affected countries have already called for regional responses including Iran and Italy, while other countries have issues travel warnings and restrictions to their citizens.
- The Coronavirus outbreak has drastically altered regular life for many. In Italy, for example, all public gatherings – including church, soccer matches, and bar trivia - have been banned by the government until March 1 to prevent large scale gatherings of people.
What can you do?
- Take a look at the CDC’s guide to see best practices to prevent illness
- Check out the US government’s response to the crisis and a map of U.S. locations where Coronavirus cases have been confirmed.
- Learn more about the Coronavirus’s implications on the global economy and check out a map to see where it has spread across the world.
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