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Beijing’s Handling of Coronavirus Has Undermined Chinese Public’s Trust in State Media

Medical workers in protective suits attend to a patient inside an isolated ward of the Wuhan Red Cross Hospital in Wuhan, the epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak, in Hubei Province, China, February 16, 2020. (China Daily via Reuters)

China’s government is facing widespread criticism from its own citizens over its handling of the outbreak of the Wuhan coronavirus.

Beijing has launched a massive propaganda campaign with stories of Chinese heroism in the struggle to contain the coronavirus, meant to unify the country’s citizens behind the government. However, the government’s efforts have faced scorn on Chinese social media, where citizens are openly complaining about the government’s response to the crisis, New York Times reported Wednesday.

The Times cited a blog post by a lawyer, Deng Xueping, excoriating the government over the coronavirus. Deng mentioned a story circulated on state media about a woman who was treated at a Wuhan hospital, but liked staying in the hospital so much that she didn’t want to leave.

“When many patients in Wuhan were struggling to get treatment, our TV camera chose to turn to one happy outpatient,” Deng wrote in the post. “By magnifying one individual’s happiness while hiding the sufferings of most people there, it’s hard to say such coverage was truthful about the epidemic.”

Some stories put out by state media are completely unbelievable. A newspaper in the city of Xi’an in central China was forced to retract a story detailing how a nurse’s newborn twins asked their father where their mother had gone. The Times cited another Chinese newspaper which reported that another nurse’s husband, who has been in a vegetative state since 2014, would smile whenever he “heard” his wife’s name, “as if he knew that his wife was engaged in a great endeavor.”

There is also widespread anger over the government’s initial condemnation of eight doctors who tried to warn others about the outbreak of the SARS-like illness in Wuhan in late December-early January, before the outbreak took hold in earnest. One of those doctors, Li Wenliang, tried to warn medical school friends of the illness.

After Li was reprimanded by the local Wuhan government for spreading “rumors,” he contracted the virus from a patient he did not know was infected. Li has since died.

China has also changed its diagnostic criteria for the coronavirus multiple times, leading to confusion over the number of confirmed cases in the country. A health official from Hubei Provice, the epicenter of the outbreak, has accused the government of a lack of transparency and accuracy regarding its reporting of cases.

Zachary Evans is a news writer for National Review Online. He is a veteran of the Israeli Defense Forces and a trained violist.

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