Indispensable SARS article

More than any other article I have seen so far, this one backs up my own observations about the Chinese government’s contortions over the past weeks, from idiotic, bold-faced lies (“there’s never been a better time to visit Guandong, and tourists are arriving in record numbers!”) to stern warnings to tell the truth about SARS. It’s a great piece. Excerpt:

China’s top leaders, seeking to quell an international uproar over the honesty of their medical reports on a deadly respiratory virus, have issued their strongest warning yet about severe acute respiratory syndrome and have explicitly cautioned officials not to cover up its spread. ….The top leaders called the spread of the new disease a serious threat to “China’s reform, development and stability” and said that party and government leaders around the country “will be held accountable for the overall situation in their jurisdictions.”

….In a sign that old ways in this secretive system die hard, the Chinese media still have not been allowed to mention the scathing findings of a World Health Organization team.

….One motive for Beijing’s prevarication, diplomats and doctors here speculate, was to avoid the placement of Beijing, the capital city, on the World Health Organization’s travel advisory list, which now recommends against “nonessential travel” to Guangdong or Hong Kong.

But the tactic appears to have backfired, with official credibility demolished and rumors gone rampant.

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