April 24, 2003


Chinese whispers: The Chinese government's handling of Sars has given rumour and hearsay the currency of truth (Dominic Marsh, April 24, 2003, The Guardian)
A fortnight ago, the top story on CCTV9, China's international English-language channel, was "Sars is unequivocally under control".

The World Health Organisation had apparently complimented Beijing on its handling of the crisis, and archive footage of smiling, waving western tourists proved that even fickle foreign devils weren't scared.

The Communist party had successfully defended the Motherland from the ravages of Sars.

Here in Tianjin, just over an hour's train ride from the capital, Sars was little more than a big joke at that time. We mocked the Rolling Stones for pulling out of their China tour; those who donned surgical masks were ridiculed. Sars was nothing.

We didn't really believe the government's lies, but what they were claiming was by far the most comforting thing to tell ourselves.

It all changed four days ago. In the space of a few hours, the figure for cases in Beijing was revised from 30 to almost 400. And from then on, we kicked ourselves for having pretended to believe what we knew were lies.

The media's change of tack looks like a new attempt at honesty, but it has come far too late. Who knows how many have fallen ill or died needlessly?

No-one, Chinese or otherwise, can believe the offical line now.

Wow, even the The Guardian is acknowledging that communist governments lie.... Posted by Orrin Judd at April 24, 2003 5:15 PM
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