First-hand account of Chinese COVID-19 censorship underscores just how much our media failed us


t was obvious in March, back when members of the free press first began to praise China for supposedly defeating the coronavirus pandemic, that many journalists and commentators were parroting literal Chinese Communist Party propaganda.

But now, with Foreign Policy’s publication of a detailed, first-hand account describing China’s sinister, far-reaching efforts to hide the truth of its role in the spread of this pandemic, it is clearer than ever just how poorly our vaunted Fourth Estate failed us.

“We were all familiar with China’s growing censorship and had avoided using words and phrases that the Chinese government didn’t like,” writes freelance journalist Tracy Wen Liu, “but we fell victim to an expanding system anyway. … A wave of new censorship has grown during the coronavirus pandemic, most of it focused on covering up the stories around COVID-19 itself.”

She adds, “After the lockdown on Jan. 23, the situation in Wuhan was chaotic and horrific. I was told by Li, a doctor at Wuhan No. 4 Hospital, that ‘there’s insufficient manpower, limited treatment, and scarce [personal protective equipment].’”

Liu writes that she and like-minded journalists, including one she identifies simply as “Qian,” banded together to collect as much relevant information as possible to assist thousands of struggling patients with getting the healthcare they needed. However, Liu adds, “Qian” received a phone call from the Wuhan Propaganda Department on January 31, a little more than a week after the lockdown was imposed, and was ordered to stop reporting on the realities of the pandemic — or else.

“Qian” and many fellow journalists disregarded the reported threats. This is where Chinese authorities allegedly escalated the matter. Liu writes:

There were many journalists thinking like Qian. Through brave reporting, independent media outlets like Caixin published articles highlighting whistleblowers and government malfeasance. They talked about the Chinese Red Cross’s inefficiency in handling donations of protective equipment, a serious shortage of test kits, and how doctors had to charge toward the front line of the pandemic without proper protection. … The clampdowns came fast. According to Wong, an editor for the Paper (one of China’s leading digital media outlets), on Feb. 2, media outlets were told to not publish negative coronavirus-related articles. A good number of influential articles were deleted. Every night, around 2 a.m., thousands of posts from the “COVID-19 patients pleading for help” Weibo group disappeared. The government sent dozens of journalists to Wuhan to shape the narrative around the virus.

But there was still an eagerness to publish the truth. In March, Renwu magazine published an interview with Ai Fen, a doctor who heads the emergency department at Wuhan Central Hospital. She told the magazine that the outbreak began unfolding in December and doctors who tried to share information about the virus were told to stop. The story was deleted within hours of being published, yet Chinese internet users rapidly came up with various ways to preserve and share the article in a show of defiance against the censors. Some wrote the story backward, some used emoji instead of words, and some translated the story into other languages. While the various versions of the story were also deleted, this was a brief demonstration of the feeling of an empowered public.

Since around February, she adds, it has become “more and more difficult to interview medical workers, patients, and their families.”

“The government wants to portray itself as a responsible regime that has successfully contained the virus and is leading the world,” Liu writes. “More and more people are getting into trouble, whether ordinary members of the public or journalists.”

She continues:

Medical staff were particularly targeted as part of the post-virus crackdown. I obtained an official document issued by Fangshan No.1 Hospital in Shiyan (a city less than 300 miles away from Wuhan, in the same province), dated February 14, that warns hospital employees that sharing information about the coronavirus situation in their hospital could result in firing, loss of their status as civil servants, or expulsion from the Chinese Communist Party.

Liu, who provides documentation to back her assertion that coronavirus-related news articles were deleted by government officials and recovered later by vigilant readers, reports that medical workers “from various hospitals” have confirmed that these coronavirus-specific threats are common.

Keep in mind that at around the time that she says the Chinese Communist Party was reportedly cracking down on whistleblowers and medical workers, all while spearheading a propaganda campaign to position itself on the world stage as the most credible and competent superpower, members of the free press were practically tripping over themselves to praise China’s allegedly innovative and victorious response to the deadly contagion.

“How uncomfortable is it that perhaps China’s authoritarian ways did prevent this?” NBC News’s Chuck Todd asked in early March.

The Guardian columnist Bhaskar Sunkara said elsewhere in blanket praise for China, “thank God this pandemic started in a country with a strong state that took serious public health measures. Imagine if China was run by the GOP instead of the CCP.”

“China has reacted to the outbreak of coronavirus in Italy by sending aid,” mused the Atlantic’s Anne Applebaum. “The U.S. has reacted by suspending flights. Who is the superpower?”

In terms of actual news reporting, things were not much better for Western journalism.

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So why isnt the world Health Organization(WHO)doing anything about china and its hiding the facts from the world

One thing our corrupt liberal media can really appreciate is some really effective communist propaganda.

The media didn’t fail us. Leaders who didn’t pay attention to the available information failed us. Here’s a sample of coronavirus coverage all dating from January 2020. And here are articles that come up from January 2020 concerning Wuhan. Some people who should have been getting on top of this from the start are still in denial, and still ignoring their own experts. They won’t even set an example by appearing in masks. Vanity, ego, and a single-minded focus on winning an election are going to kill people.

I recall talking to my doctor about the possibility of this SARS-like outbreak developing into a pandemic during a routine visit in mid-February.

@Greg: It was already a pandemic in mid February congress was passing a huge spending bill.
Is your memory ok?

My memory is fine. I remember that the media has been reporting the developing COVID-19 situation since it began.

The Trump administration’s efforts to mislead people about the threat of COVID-19 isn’t much different from the Chinese government’s efforts to control the free exchange of information. In the case of the Trump administration, they’re now trying to shift blame and cover up their own gross incompetence.

Our screwed up response isn’t the fault of China.

@Greg: The media IS the problem. Without them giving Democrats a 24/7 pass on corruption, lies and failure the Democrats would be forced to be a more useful party to the PEOPLE. As it is, they are free to turn into a fascist regime, causing endless damage to the nation.

The media fails the nation… again

Media failing the people, lying to protect Democrats

The media downplayed coronavirus to attack Trump’s China travel ban, then attacked Trump for downplaying the virus

And let us remember how Pelosi tore up Trump’s SOTU speech, addressing COVID19.

At a time when we need real leadership, Trump is going to be the lamest lame duck in the history of the United States.


My memory is fine. I remember that the media has been reporting the developing COVID-19 situation since it began.

Soyou asked your doctor if it was going to be a pandemic after it was already declraed one. Or was it when WHO said it couldnt be transmitted human to human, or when they said it wasnt air borne, or when they said masks were dangerous.
“Preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel #coronavirus (2019-nCoV) identified in #Wuhan, #China …In spite of Tawain reporting they had te evidence
My analysis is you are lying, dems were partying in china town in California and Telling those in NY to live as normal. That Trump was racist.

The media is providing us with information that the Trump administration is deliberately holding back. Today, for example, leaked internal CDC documents have revealed that a full reopening of schools is considered by the CDC to be among the highest risks for COVID-19 spread.

It’s not the media that is failing us.

@Greg: Each district has its own decision to make, I am sure that they are working with health experts to set guidelines, its past time they had sanitary schools. The highest risk has been and remains with the frail and elderly.
I know your fear porn has you all worked up, it isnt a leak of secret information Its been in our news that they are looking to open the germ factories for a while now.
Your “cutting edge”sources just began to wet thier thongs over it the last coupe of days.

@kitt, #10:

The highest risk has been and remains with the frail and elderly.

The highest risk of serious illness and death has always been for the frail and the elderly. That doesn’t mean younger people are invulnerable to serious consequences from exposure to contagious disease. COVID-19 simply hit the most vulnerable population first.

July 10, 2020 – More young people are dying from COVID-19 in Florida

One of the only bright spots about the COVID-19 pandemic has been its relatively small impact on young people, especially kids.

Now that dynamic appears to be changing.

A month ago, Florida health officials had reported only one death among people younger than 25. Over the next two weeks, four more young people died. Now it’s 12, including two deaths in kids younger than 12.

There’s a similar story in young adults.

As of June 1, there had been 52 deaths among people aged 25- 44 in the first five months of this pandemic. That number has more than doubled — 106 deaths now among that age group — in slightly more than a month.

Just yesterday, state health officials reported three deaths in Pinellas County between the ages of 32 and 47.

“Perfectly healthy people have died of COVID,” said Dr. Jill Roberts, associate professor at USF School of Public Health.

She also pointed out that death is the worst outcome — but there are plenty of other health and financial issues that could result from becoming sick with COVID-19.

“Death is the end point we’re most concerned with, but that’s not the only end point,” said Dr. Roberts. “We have young people who’ve gotten sick who are reporting long-lasting health issues. They’re still having trouble breathing. They still had organ failure that occurred.”

“Not to mention the cost of treatment or missing work,” Dr. Roberts said. “If you become sick, you’re not going back to your workplace. Can you afford four weeks before you can get a negative COVID test to go back to work? Can you go without a paycheck for four weeks?”

Dr. Roberts said prevention is still the best medicine — wear a mask when you can’t social distance, especially indoors.

School reopenings are going multiply the potential pathways for the spread of COVID-19 suddenly and enormously, at a time when surges are already being observed across dozens of states.