It was fascinating to read, in the pages of La Presse this week, a professor from a Kazakh university defending the virtues of authoritarian regimes in times of crises. His analysis obviously looked at the example of China and the measures its totalitarian communist government took to limit the propagation of COVID-19, one month after the outbreak of the first cases in the province of Wuhan.
At first glance, the Chinese reaction may appear to have been rapid, transparent, and measured, but as time goes by, the stories that are surfacing remind us of the true nature of the Chinese authorities and the questionable tactics that they use in times of crisis: censorship and violence. Remember that totalitarian regimes don’t like to look bad.
Take the sad case of Dr. Li Wenliang, the Chinese doctor who was one of the first to sound the alarm about the appearance of the virus in the city of Wuhan. Li Wenliang, who unfortunately died after being infected by the virus, was at first arrested, questioned, and forced to recant publicly regarding the emergence of a new strain of coronavirus. Why? Because Dr. Li had dared to alert his colleagues, friends, and network of online contacts about the situation in Wuhan. According to the public health authorities, what he was asserting was nothing but “rumours.” To this day, the true story of Li Wenliang is censored, while the government has concocted its own version of the facts, spread through the state media.
Then there are the forced internments in temporary hospitals, the violence at roadblocks, as well as the barricaded houses and apartment buildings. Some will say that these measures were necessary, but that’s not true. A rapid response by authorities following the warnings of doctors like Li Wenliang could have prevented the propagation, without the need for violence—the best example being that of Taiwan, which to this day has had only 135 cases.
China has reported no new cases for days, but between you and me, who still believes in the honesty of this totalitarian regime?