Is This The Smoking Gun That Proves China Has Lied About Coronvirus?
With the number of confirmed cases of, and deaths from coronavirus in Italy, a nation of 63 million people having now surpassed the number of infections officially admitted by the government of China, a nation of 1.4 billion and the nation where the news strain of coronavirus, COVID — 19 was first observed, it was obvious to the realists among us that the Chinese government’s claims to have contained the virus were deeply suspect and further claims that the outbreak were under control were as reliable as reported sightings of The Tooth Fairy. To call the official narrative into question by suggesting China may have covered up the true extent of the coronavirus outbreak, despite being denied by government officials and mainstream media talking heads, was being put on a par with questioning the climate change narrative, saying there is no evidence that Donald Trump is a Russian collaborator or predicting that post Brexit, Britain will boom once free of the suffocating blanket of EU bureaucracy.
That may all be about to change because a report published today reveals an app supported by the government of China has been censoring keywords since January 1 this year. An investigation carried out by Toronto-based cybersecurity research company Citizen Lab found the WeChat app blocked combinations of keywords on the virus and any material critical of President Xi Jinping’s response. WeChat is the most popular messaging app in the China was created by entrepreneur Allen Zhang. The Chinese government government is known to have supported its development and uses it as a data source for mass surveillance programs in China. Such is the reality of life in socialist dictatorships, although the way governments use technology to control information is not so different in the liberal democracies.
The Chinese government has censored what its people read and say online for years, aided and abetted in some cases by Silicon Valley giants such as Google and Facebook but the CitizenLab report suggests they began blocking discussions on the mystery disease epidemic weeks before officials acknowledged the scale severity of the outbreak.
As I commented under and article by Cailtlin Johnson a few days ago, “Firstly, the unofficial reports I’m hearing through my network of business contacts is that the Chinese government is lying through its teeth, the infection is still rampant in China, there have been upwards of 100,000 fatalities and many millions of infections, the stories of hospitals built from scratch being fully operational 30 seconds after work on the foundations is begun are typical of the bullshit that always comes out of socialist governments to mask the fact that is a crisis bureaucrats never have a clue how to deal with the problems…” (Read full comment.) Looking back on China’s track record for dealing with humanitarian crises, it is on a par with the communist government’s track record on human rights, so it’s rather disconcerting to see liberal and progressive commentators in the free world jumping on the fear-and-panic bandwagon by heaping praise on a brutal, opp[ressive and incompetent tyranny. For governments of course, to profess belief in China’s incredible claims about its success in containing COVID — 19 provides justification for the kind of executive power grabs we are seeing around the world in response to a relatively minor illness with a very high recovery rate. Because in spite of all the scaremongering, so far this strain of coronavirus is killing far less people that seasonal flu.
The damning report on China’s misinformation campaign also found that WeChat’s algorithm was updated to block progressively more significant words as the outbreak grew. Thus the Chinese government tried to keep it secret even when they knew the disease was out of control and pose a serious threat to certain demographic groups.
On December 31, China first alerted the World Health Organisation (WHO) to the outbreak, but information was initially withheld over the number of people infected, the risks downplayed, and timely information overseen, leading some to claim at that time the government was lying about the true extent of the virus.
Then, almost a month later, on January 20, President Xi publicly addressed the issue of the virus, saying it had to be “resolutely contained”.
It is not clear if WeChat’s keyword-blocking in this period was based on government directives, or if it was done of its own accord, as the report suggests it could be the result of companies “over-censoring in order to avoid being sanctioned by the authorities”.
WeChat was found to have censored 132 keyword combinations between January 1 and 31. Among words identified were the terms “Unknown Wuhan pneumonia” and “SARS outbreak in Wuhan” An additional 384 keywords were added between February 1 and 15.
China and some other non — democratic nations have a toxic attitude to freedom of speech and information, instead of being open about it when problems occur these authoritarian regimes try to hide what is happening and pretend to the outside world that everything is, if not quite normal, then at least under control. The governments in liberal democracies are not much better, but find it harder to get away with such blatant malfeasance as, at the time of writing, we still have a few ways available to us of calling those who rule us to account.
The CitizensLab report illustrates perfectly why governments and global corporations should be kept away from control of the internet, it is the last bastion of free speech and unfortunately the bastion is crumbling under constant bombardment.
We have all seen how alternative news sites and social media platforms have fallen into a biased propaganda left wing echo chamber, how censorship and Orwellian controls on information would be imposed on entire internet should it completely ever fall into the hands of the government or corporate globalists.
Yet in spite of warnings and concerns being raised by free speech activists, Boris Johnson in the UK appears determined to involve Huawei, the main corporate collaborator in China’s mass surveillance and information control policy, in building the UK’s 5G network, while in the USA the Trump administration continue to use Google and Facebook as collaborators in spite of the record of those companies in abusing their market position and manipulating information to their own advantage.
For most of us there is little to fear from COVID — 19 coronavirus if we take sensible precautions, the fear and panic being promoted by governments and mass media is a bigger threat. But as F. D. Roosvelt said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” If we give in to the artificially generated mass panic we are likely to find we have been stripped of most of our civil liberties. And for what? Fear of an infection far less dangerous that the seasonal influenza outbreaks that occur each year. Why has Italy been badly affected? Because the regions of Italy the virus has hit hardest have a very high proportion of old people. Why has China been hit? Because despite official reports of China’s rapid progress from third world poverty, much of the country is still poor and backward and vulnerability is increased by poor nutrition, sub standard civic sanitation and some bizarre dietary choices.
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