A tyrannical regime not being honest about its own performance? The deuce you say. The next thing they’ll tell us is that Xi Jinping runs brutal concentration camps and that Beijing lied about that, too.

After spending most of the year hearing the media lecture its audience on China’s superior response to the plague it unleashed on the world, CNN’s big scoop is only surprising in its timing:

A group of frontline medical workers, likely exhausted, stand huddled together on a video-conference call as China’s most powerful man raises his hand in greeting. It is February 10 in Beijing and President Xi Jinping, who for weeks has been absent from public view, is addressing hospital staff in the city of Wuhan as they battle to contain the spread of a still officially unnamed novel coronavirus.

From a secure room about 1,200 kilometers (745 miles) from the epicenter, Xi expressed his condolences to those who have died in the outbreak. He urged greater public communication, as around the world concerns mounted about the potential threat posed by the new disease.

That same day, Chinese authorities reported 2,478 new confirmed cases — raising the total global number to more than 40,000, with fewer than 400 cases occurring outside of mainland China. Yet CNN can now reveal how official documents circulated internally show that this was only part of the picture.

In a report marked “internal document, please keep confidential,” local health authorities in the province of Hubei, where the virus was first detected, list a total of 5,918 newly detected cases on February 10, more than double the official public number of confirmed cases, breaking down the total into a variety of subcategories. This larger figure was never fully revealed at that time, as China’s accounting system seemed, in the tumult of the early weeks of the pandemic, to downplay the severity of the outbreak.

Oh, it only “seemed” to downplay the severity! Nick Paton Walsh’s video report takes a tougher tone, but it still focuses more on China’s fumbles rather than the fact that none of this information was properly shared in the first place. Paton Walsh notes that China keeps insisting that it has been “as transparent as possible” about COVID-19, but the documents in CNN’s hands demonstrate that claim is a flat-out lie.

The motive for this COVID cover-up is very clear, too. Xi Jinping’s regime only survives for as long as he can project an image of strength and competence. Beijing manipulated the World Health Organization and beyond that the media by reporting false numbers and lies about its superior performance against the virus. The latter is especially laughable, since even by February the US could test and determine for COVID-19 in a far quicker time frame than 23 days. And we’d barely gotten an exposure at that point.

The US media played along for its own purposes. They were more invested in attacking Donald Trump over the outbreak than digging into its origins and China’s claims. It’s not as if China’s lies weren’t apparent, either. Remember China’s city-wide and then province-wide lockdowns in January that first alerted the world to the outbreak? Of course Beijing knew what was really happening and that community spread was off the charts — the 2000% spike in December of “flu” cases Wuhan would have made that instantly obvious to Beijing, hence the lockdowns the next month. However, the media was more concerned about Trump’s supposedly xenophobic response in shutting down travel with China. And then later they blamed Trump for the New York outbreak for not shutting down travel with Europe quickly enough, but now we know that China’s silence is what allowed this to spread on an earlier timeline than they acknowledged.

And of course, it’s convenient to report on this now. Trump lost the election, so it’s safe to start scrutinizing China again.

But will they? Now we have a smoking gun, even if CNN’s not quite portraying it that way. Will media outlets stop using China’s numbers now to scold Western nations on their COVID-19 response? We’ve been warning for months that those numbers are nothing but propaganda. Let’s see if our media elites finally stop cheerleading for Xi and start reporting honestly about his malevolence.