California is taking on a big responsibility for coronavirus, but can we really trust the Chinese government to tell the truth about their medical practices?
When President Trump announced a phase one trade deal with China, it looked like the king of deals had brokered an end to the 18-month dispute between the world’s two biggest economies.
Then came the coronavirus.
Hour by hour, World Health Organization officials are updating the number of confirmed cases and fatalities resulting from the coronavirus. As of this writing, the death toll has surpassed 1,100 – with more than 45,000 cases confirmed in 28 countries and territories, including 13 cases in the United States and multiple cases in California.
Our armed services have taken the lead in the national coronavirus response with Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, Travis Air Force Base in Sacramento, and March Air Reserve Base in Riverside all acting as coronavirus quarantine facilities.
The full extent of the outbreak remains unclear, but there’s no question that the epidemic – and ensuing response – will have a major impact on the global economy. Airlines have suspended flights to China. Chinese officials have ordered a lockdown of more than 56 million people, who can’t go to work, school or shop. Wuhan, the center of the coronavirus outbreak, is a major manufacturing hub, supplying components for hundreds of US-based suppliers, including Apple, Tesla and General Motors.
“Even if it is potentially contained within the borders of a country or a region, there’s so much global manufacturing and trade that happens in these areas,” Nita Madhav, chief executive officer of Metabiota, a San Francisco company that studies the spread and impact of epidemics, tells VOA News. “And that could disrupt … the manufacturing of different goods and the shipping of them across the world.”
If a trade deal between the two largest economies in the world can be rendered moot by an exotic animal seller at a Wuhan seafood market, it’s an indication that the next round of US-China talks must go well beyond trade to include a hard look at the propaganda, censorship and human rights violations within China’s biomedical sector.
China’s ruthless Communist government quashes all dissenting opinions and censors any content that would cause the public to question the official party line. That includes matters of public health. Initially, Chinese censors ordered journalists to keep the outbreak off the front pages and barred any reporting that differed from the official reports by state-controlled media.
The Financial Times reports that hospitals “were given a target of ‘zero infections’ among staff, with hospital deans liable to be fired for failing to meet the target. As a result, medical staff were slow to report infections among nurses.” In some cases, Chinese officials changed death certificates to eliminate any connection between fatalities and the coronavirus.
Even the virus’ origin story – that 2019-nCoV somehow made the jump from animals to humans via the Huanan Wholesale Seafood Market – is being questioned. A new study published in the Lancet reveals data that “suggest the virus, and its spread among humans, took off weeks earlier than Chinese officials said.”
“Understanding a disease’s origin story is important, both because it helps epidemiologists track and prevent its spread and because a virus’s genetic makeup can inform the design of vaccines and treatments,” explains Popular Science. “The details of a contagion’s provenance can also help policymakers figure out how to prevent future outbreaks.”
China’s response to coronavirus isn’t isolated but reflects an endemic failure to adhere to basic standards of medical ethics, human rights and public health transparency.
Last year, an independent British tribunal chaired by Sir Geoffrey Nice, a former prosecutor at the international criminal tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, concluded that China has been engaged in the ghoulish practice of harvesting organs from religious minority groups and political prisoners, primarily members of the spiritual community Falun Gong.
“The conclusion shows that very many people have died indescribably hideous deaths for no reason,” Sir Nice told the Guardian. “There is no evidence of the practice having been stopped and the tribunal is satisfied that it is continuing.”
China promised to end forced organ harvesting in 2015. That is difficult to substantiate due to the country’s censorship and lack of transparency. Much like with coronavirus, there is reason to believe that the government has falsified public health datasets. A study published in the BMC Medical Ethics journal casts doubt on the legitimacy of the government’s official organ donation statistics.
“They’re too neat to be true,” Matthew Robertson, the study’s lead author told the Guardian. “These figures don’t appear to be real data from real donations. They’re numbers generated using an equation. It is difficult to imagine how this model could have been arrived at by mere chance, raising the distinct possibility that it was intended to deceive.”
For years, the world has ignored Chinese human rights abuses against prisoners of conscience, Muslims, Tibetan Buddhists, Christians, and members of Falun Gong. Now, China’s biomedical practices are a threat to the entire world.