Update: Bird flu cover-up in China

Despite the Chinese government’s vehement protestations, charges that it’s been covering up cases of bird flu are picking up traction.

With its bird-flu outbreak spreading swiftly to new regions, China faces mounting suspicions that its obsessively secretive bureaucracy has again been caught in a cover-up of a deadly disease.

Five new outbreaks of bird flu were confirmed in China yesterday, including a case in a new region of the country. The disease has now spread to 13 of its 31 regions.

This was one of the most hotly debated topics within the Asian blogosphere last year: After the SARS catastrophe, did the Chinese grow and learn from their malfeasances, or were those press conferences and public apologies and promises of greater transparency just for show?

It happened last year in China with the SARS epidemic, and earlier with AIDS. In both cases, the first reaction of Chinese officials was to hide the truth, pretending that the outbreaks were relatively mild and insignificant. In both cases, the cover-up continued until Beijing finally bowed to intense international pressure and began disclosing the frightening depth of its crises.

Now some observers worry that Beijing may be concealing the extent of the avian-flu outbreak to avoid the embarrassment and economic costs of the true situation.

Yesterday, at their first news conference since the bird-flu outbreak erupted last month, Chinese health and agriculture officials were peppered with questions about a suspected cover-up of the bird-flu outbreak. Reporters asked how Beijing could continue to claim that no humans were infected with bird flu, with more than 56,000 birds infected in chicken farms in almost half of the provinces. They asked whether anyone would be sacked for concealing the disease, and whether an inquiry would be held. And they asked why Beijing continues to ban foreign journalists from any of the infected regions.

There is a long history of covering up diseases in China, not just human diseases such as SARS and AIDS but also animal diseases. The Chinese government, for example, officially declares that foot-and-mouth disease is non-existent in China. Yet the presence of the disease in Chinese cattle is already so well-known and widespread that many neighbouring countries refuse to buy meat from China.

I don’t yet see a smoking gun like we had last year, when a whistleblower revealed the incredible measures the CCP was taking to cover up SARS. And needless to say, the government is strenuously denying all the accusations. But the media seem convinced the government is lying again, and just as with AIDS and SARS, I suspect the truth will start leaking out.

I believe those claiming SARS marked a great turning point for the CCP are wearing rose-tainted spectacles. Maintaining social stability and harmony at all costs is absolutely essential for the party. (Being the obtuse idiots that they are, they don’t realize that by covering up an epidemic, it only makes things worse in the long run, but they’d never understand that argument.)

So when a crisis arises, be it foot and mouth disease, AIDS or SARS, they have no choice — like automatons, they go into automatic pilot and lie, deny and cover up. We have already seen glowing examples of the New & Improved CCP’s “transparency.” To which I have just three words to say: Same old shit.

The Discussion: No Comments

No comments yet.

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Sorry, the comment form is closed at this time.