Authorities in China are cracking down on coronavirus information as a new wave of COVID-19 cases hits the southern province of Guangdong.
China reported 21 new coronavirus disease infections on June 9, up from 16 the day before, according to a statement issued by the health ministry on Thursday.
Six of the newly confirmed cases were Guangdong-based transmissions. Guangzhou, the provincial capital, has reported 115 local infections in the recent outbreak, which began on May 21, according to state media.
Authorities in Guangzhou began mass testing local residents on May 26, with nearly 28 million nucleic acid samples collected since the operation began, according to health officials on June 8.
However, there is widespread public scepticism about whether the government is underreporting the outbreak.
Guo, a resident of Wuhan’s central city, said he found the numbers in Guangdong suspicious.
“It is said that Guangzhou has 170,000 medical staff, which should be enough to treat these patients,” Guo said. “So, why are 6,500 medical personnel being transferred from other locations to Guangzhou to support [local hospitals]?”
However, he believes it is unlikely that anyone in the healthcare system will speak out about the true situation on the ground.
“Even if they only say a few words, they will be detained,” Wu said. “They’re not going to let ordinary people say anything.”
According to the Shantou Daily newspaper, two men were recently detained in administrative detention for “rumor-mongering” about the pandemic.
“Chaonan police investigated and dealt with two pandemic-related rumours, and the two men involved were administratively detained by the public security bureau in accordance with the law,” according to the paper.
One of them, Zhuang, was detained on June 1 for making “inappropriate comments” on the social media platform WeChat, and was held for five days for “spreading rumours and disrupting public order,” according to the statement.
Another WeChat user, Zhou, was detained on June 5 for claiming to have tested positive for COVID-19 and was sentenced to 10 days of administrative detention, according to the paper.
According to Liu, a Beijing resident, “In this pandemic, you are not permitted to tell the truth. If you do, and someone retweets it, you’re done. ”
“This demonstrates how afraid the government is of the truth; it’s now very strict.”
According to legal scholar Li Lin, the authorities are clearly exercising increasing control over public speech.
“This tendency toward a higher degree of control is becoming more and more obvious,” Li told RFA. “They want the [ruling Chinese Communist] Party [CCP] to have total control.”
“Information is only allowed to flow in one direction, to the people, and they must passively receive notice of arrangements,” Li explained. “No one is permitted to discuss or release any information.”
“This means that the public has no way to participate in public affairs, and [the CCP] actually controls everything,” he explained.