While sacrificing their lives to treat the victims of the deadly virus, China’s doctors and nurses were pressed to play along with the government’s propaganda.
by Shen Xinran
Since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, China’s regime has been censoring and withholding critical information. Beginning with the silencing of whistleblowers who warned about the dangers of the new virus and subsequent propaganda campaigns to hide the real situation, the outcomes of this move proved to be lethal to the entire world. Had the information been shared in time, numerous lives could have been saved.
Doctors and nurses were and still are at the forefront of fighting the disaster. Medical personnel and their families from different parts of China share with Bitter Winter how they were made part of the government’s propaganda campaign to hide the truth about the virus.
Speaking in unison with the Party
“Medical personnel who went to Wuhan had been asked to sign confidentiality agreements, accepting the Party’s direction and promising not to disclose information,” a man whose wife works in a Beijing hospital and was dispatched to Wuhan told Bitter Winter on February 19. He once overheard his wife telling her colleague that more than 100 people who died one day in a Wuhan hospital were burned, but this information was never reported.
According to a medical staff member in another Beijing hospital, all employees had to sign confidentiality agreements in late January, promising not to give interviews without permission or to disclose any information about the epidemic. “For example, suppose that the hospital diagnosed ten coronavirus patients, and the state media only reported two cases, medical personnel can only say that there were only two. They must report the same thing as the Communist Party,” the medic told Bitter Winter.
“The Communist Party is afraid that truth will damage its image,” he added. “You are not allowed to disseminate any information which is not made public by the CCP. If you tell the truth, the Communist Party has ways to punish you.”
Medical staff were also silenced in Wenzhou, a commercial hub in the southeastern province of Zhejiang and the city most affected by coronavirus outside Hubei Province.
“In late January, our hospital’s leader warned us that we were not allowed to give interviews to the media,” a medical worker from Wenzhou told Bitter Winter. “My colleague told me that some doctors were forced to sign confidentiality agreements not to disclose information because the government feared it would cause panic. All doctors and nurses who went to Wuhan had to sign them.”
Losing confidence in the government
On February 18, the CCP Political and Legal Affairs Committee issued a notice, demanding to intensify publicity and “further promote uprightness, encourage morale, and inspire positive social energy” and “introduce more positive ‘warm news’ with humane, tear-drawing stories,” portraying “loyally fearless and selflessly dedicated” coronavirus frontline workers.
Since then, China’s state media started reporting continuously about Party members and medical workers who volunteered to go to Wuhan. People who talked to Bitter Winter revealed that such stories were not always accurate or were created to maintain “the Party’s image.”
“Reports about Party members coming forward to go to Wuhan on their own accord were not always true: their choices were decided by drawing lots,” a medical worker from a hospital in Wenzhou explained. “People had no choice but to go to Wuhan because their superiors ordered them. Only a few applied willingly. Protective medical clothing was insufficient, contrary to what the government claimed, and people were still told to go there. We were not allowed to resign, and if we did, the fact would be included in our records, and we won’t be able to find a good job in the future.”
Medical personnel in Jiujiang, a prefecture-level city in the southeastern province of Jiangxi, reported that they were not allowed to go home to rest and had to work without proper protective gear.
Doctors and nurses fighting the epidemic said that they stopped trusting the government because it intentionally covers up information and continuously spreads false news.
Another medical worker from Wenzhou disclosed that disposable protective gear had been repeatedly used after being disinfected again and again because of short supply. “It is ineffective,” he explained. “For Lunar New Year, some doctors and nurses in Wuhan were only given instant noodles and yolk pies. One hospital director posted photos, saying that at least they had something to eat. But it was reported in the news that medicals staff had enough protective clothing and food. Knowing that information is being concealed gives us no sense of safety.”