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Unpublished images filmed in Wuhan during the early days of the coronavirus pandemic confirmed what many governments and international organizations have been denouncing for a long time: that Xi Jinping’s regime used its repressive power to cover up the true gravity of the outbreak, thus facilitating its spread in the rest of the world.
“3 days that stopped the world”, a documentary filmed between January 19-22, 2020 by two Chinese journalists, showed the repression by the authorities against those who sought to report on what was happening in the city of 11 million inhabitants as the panic of the population and the hospitals were crowded.
The images were published by the medium Al Jazeera.
Yang Jun | and Chen Wei -two pseudonyms, as the real names were not disclosed for security reasons- they traveled to Wuhan days before the city went into total lockdown. In addition to the video, journalists also broadcast a diary in which they collected their impressions during those days.
When the journalists arrived in town on January 19, 2020, the official number of cases was only a few hundred and the Chinese regime was spreading information with a dropper.
For those days, the regime authorities were already alarmed: They had ordered the closure of the Huanan wet market, the place where the outbreak is suspected, and were investigating the person-to-person transmission of the SARS-CoV-2.
However, neither Wuhan nor Beijing officials gave information on the possible seriousness of the situation. Nor was the media allowed to document what was happening, what left the citizens -and the rest of the world- in the dark.
The images and newspapers showed that the authorities tried to prevent the journalists from doing their work, despite the fact that They worked for the Beijing-based state media and had permission from the Wuhan Municipal Department of Media Affairs.
“Information about the outbreak is hidden”
At all times, from the seafood market to hospitals, the police tried to hinder the search for information on the outbreak.
“I cannot report freely. As long as government institutions are involved, they follow me and spy on me constantly “Jun wrote in his diary.
“Information about the outbreak is secretly hidden and very difficult to obtain”, added.
Jun continued writing: “During the three days of my reporting in Wuhan, the police and hospital staff constantly detained me. So, I realized the severity of the virus and how delicate and difficult it is to report on this topic. It is beyond my imagination. “
Police officers repeatedly told reporters, who continued to secretly film during interrogations, that they couldn’t film, since the areas were closed.
“There are some topics and stories that could not be reported in China. Such as the discussion of the pandemic control measures, the protocols to confirm infected patients and also everything related to the cover-ups of organizations or government departments. All were impossible to touch or report “, Wei said in his diary.
Similar testimonies were made by both Chinese and Western journalists. Nine Chinese journalists were arrested for covering the coronavirus outbreak. As well the doctors who sought to warn about the danger of the new disease were silenced.
“Chinese media and social media talk about crisis and despair all over the world except China,” Wei wrote. “But no one in China dares to speak about the origin of the virus from Wuhan or the first mistakes caused by the local government in Wuhan”he continued.
“The only thing that can be argued about this pandemic is how well the government has done and how grateful the Chinese people should be to the government,” said.
The consequences of the cover-up
The inability to report and the secrecy of the authorities resulted in the population was not overly concerned about the outbreak.
“When I arrive, people seem to have no fear or concern about the virus. Some have not even heard of it “Jun wrote in his diary.
“The owner of a stall asks me to remove my mask. He says, “You are obviously an overly concerned outsider. Everything is fine here ‘”Jun continued.
When the regime took the first measures and ordered the quarantine in Wuhan, it was too late. The contagion had already spread among the population that, in panic, went en masse to the city’s hospitals.
“The lack of personnel and equipment in Wuhan meant that many infected patients were denied treatment”Jun wrote in his diary. “It is a joke and hospitals hide the truth.”
Meanwhile, millions of people had already moved across the country for the Chinese New Year, which gave the virus the possibility of spreading throughout China and, soon after, the rest of the world.
The rest is history. The coronavirus has since infected to more than 91 million people, caused the death of more than 2 million and it sank the world economy. China, however, managed to control the pandemic and positioned itself as the only developed economy to register economic expansion.
Wuhan, the city where it all began, has also returned to relative normalityWei wrote in his diary.
“People here don’t really talk about the virus anymore. It’s like a story that happened a long time ago “, wrote.
“People feel very lucky and proud to be in China because it is the only country that has controlled the virus”, added. “This may not be the truth, but this is how most Chinese feel.”
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