In China, critics of the government's handling of the coronavirus crisis simply disappear

When the coronavirus began spreading quickly through Wuhan a couple of Chinese video bloggers documented what was happening. After Fang Bin published video of bodies stacked outside a morgue, a group of government minders showed up at his house late at night, demanding to be let in. He refused but filmed the incident and uploaded the video to social media. Fang Bin later disappeared and hasn’t been heard from since.

Another blogger named Chen Qiushi filed multiple reports per day from the epicenter for about a week. Then he learned that authorities had removed his posts from social media and had contacted his parents to find out where he was staying. He posted a video in which he said, “I am scared. I have the virus in front of me. Behind me is China’s law enforcement.” Shortly after he posted that video Chen Qiushi disappeared. His mother posted a video asking what happened to him and his father was told he had been taken away and put into “quarantine” by government officials. That quarantine is going on two months now and China’s ambassador to the United States said this week he doesn’t know who Chen is despite having been asked about him previously:

More recently, a Chinese developer named Ren Zhiqiang who has long been a critic of Chinese president Xi Jinping was believed to be the author of an essay critcizing Xi’s response to the crisis and China’s state-run media. Here’s a sample of what he wrote:

This outbreak of the Wuhan pneumonia epidemic has verified the reality: when all media took on the “surname of the Party” the people “were abandoned” indeed [a reference to a forecast Ren made in his response to Xi’s declaration that the media should “bear the Party surname”]. Without a media representing the interests of the people by publishing the actual facts, the people’s lives are being ravaged by both the virus and the major illness of the system…

I too am curiously and conscientiously studying [Xi’s teleconferenced February 23] speech, but what I saw in it was the complete opposite of the “importance” reported by all types of media and online. I saw not an emperor standing there exhibiting his “new clothes,” but a clown who stripped naked and insisted on continuing being emperor. Despite holding a series of loincloths up in an attempt to cover the reality of your nakedness, you don’t in the slightest hide your resolute ambition to be an emperor, or the determination to let anyone who won’t let you be destroyed.

That was in late February. After that circulated online, Ren Zhiqiang disappeared. A report from the Asia Times suggests he is now facing 15 years in prison:

Ren, 70, has not been seen since then, and his friends have taken to social media seeking information about his whereabouts. News came out during the past weekend, however, that Ren is being held at a secret prison in a suburb in Beijing and that he may be locked up for no less than 15 years as he has been a recidivist, relentlessly attacking Xi. It is said that his interrogators, dispatched by the party’s commission on discipline inspection, have been given instructions from the top echelon of the central leadership to treat him harshly because he has infuriated the top leader.

If accurate, it means Ren is facing what amounts to a life sentence for criticizing Xi Jinping. This is how communist China operates. If you make the leader look bad, even by telling the truth, you pay a price. Meanwhile, foreign ministry spokesman Lijian Zhao, who has spread the false claim that U.S. soldiers spread the coronavirus in China, is now talking about unity and the brotherhood of man.

The Chinese government doesn’t care about racial discrimination. If it did, it wouldn’t be “re-educating” a million Uyghurs in Xinjiang against their will. What China cares about is saving face and protecting president Xi Jinping from criticism. In the U.S. that takes the form of this social justice BS designed to get Americans to stop talking about where the virus originated. But in China, where the communist government is free to work its will, government critics simply disappear.

This video by the Wall Street Journal was published on March 13th: