STAFF EDITORIAL: China needs to be more transparent

Staff Editorial

We at The Daily Eastern News believe that China should not only be more transparent and forthcoming about the COVID-19, but they should not be switching policies that count COVID-19 patients because it will cause more confusion, controversy and panic. 

By silencing Dr. Li Wenliang and expelling three journalists, Chinese officials have not only censored early concerns and current press coverage, but they have created an uncertain atmosphere surrounding the epicenter of COVID-19.

 The coronavirus, now officially recognized as COVID-19 by World Health Organization, has plagued nearly every global news outlet since Dec. 31 when Dr. Li Wenliang first noticed similarities between SARS and early coronavirus patients. 

Since then, BBC has reported Chinese officials forced Dr. Li Wenliang to sign documents denouncing his claims as “illegal activity.” According to The New York Times, he was diagnosed with the coronavirus nearly a month later and died last week. That night many social media posts with the hashtag #iwantfreedomofspeech trended across China as well as posts criticizing the government, NPR said, which were all taken down by morning.

According to CNN, there are a total of 75,730 people infected and 2,126 deaths. Out of these cases, 74,576 people in mainland China are infected, and 1,982 have died from COVID-19. China’s senior epidemiologist, Zhong Nanshan, predicted these numbers are expected to slow down sometime this month; however, NPR reported that Chinese health officials implemented a new category for those infected with COVID-19 in the Hubei province last Thursday.

This new category will include “clinical cases,” which will count anyone who has all symptoms of the disease, even if patients have not been tested or tested negative for the virus. With this new system in place, officials from the Hubei province reported 14,840 new cases and 242 deaths on Thursday, nearly doubling the statistics in less than 24 hours.

On Thursday, CNN has reported China will no longer count these cases as a part of the official tally of COVID-19 cases.

Furthermore, NPR has reported on Wednesday that three Wall Street Journal journalists have been expelled from China by officials and have been given five days to leave the country. The journalists were expelled due to an opinion piece titled “China is the real sick man of Asia,” which criticizes China’s original response to the coronavirus and how it has impacted both the political atmosphere and its economy. NPR reported that the three journalists had not “contributed to the opinion piece in question.” 

The Committee to Protect Journalists has since commented that China should give the journalist’s press credentials back because it would be counterproductive for China to limit reporting in the epicenter of a global health crisis.

Instead of expelling journalists, who did not contribute to WSJ’s opinion article, and pushing criticism away, China should openly discuss why they had initially forced Dr. Li Wenliang to remain silent about his concerns at the beginning of the year as well as why health officials have deemed it necessary to create a new category, then decide to not count these cases as a part of the official tally, for those with “mild cases.” This would then help soothe Chinese citizens’ concerns, and China would develop trust between themselves and foreign countries. 

If Chinese officials continue to limit coverage or decide to disregard and implement new categorizations, their reports on the virus will be seen as unreliable to the general public.

Not only that, but Chinese officials should have had the Hubei province stick to counting patients with “mild cases” as a part of the official tally to keep statistics consistent.

China needs to be more transparent with its policy changes and how they will affect those infected.

The Editorial Staff can be reached at 581-2812 or at [email protected].