The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) covered up the spread of the new coronavirus within the country, suppressing the real rate of infection and violating the rights of its citizens as it did so, a Chinese human rights activist told a forum at The Catholic University of America on Friday.
“It is time to recognize the threat the Chinese Communist Party poses to all humanity. The CCP represses and manipulates information to strengthen its hold on power, regardless of the toll on human lives,” human rights lawyer Chen Guangcheng said April 24 during an online forum on the CCP and the new coronavirus.
The forum was hosted by Faith & Law in partnership with the Institute for Human Ecology at the Catholic University of America. Guangcheng is Distinguished Visiting Fellow at Catholic University’s Institute for Policy Research and Catholic Studies.
Guangcheng is a blind human rights lawyer from China, who received sanctuary in the U.S. in 2012 after he was targeted by the CCP for his advocacy work. Guangcheng has sharply criticized the party for its human rights abuses, including from its one-child family planning policy.
He was sent to prison and subject to house arrest, during which he claims he and his family were repeatedly beaten and denied medical treatment.
On Friday, the lawyer warned audience members against suggestions that other countries should emulate China’s authoritarian response to the new coronavirus (COVID-19).
There are currently more than 2.7 million confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the world.
The city of Wuhan is recognized as the epicenter of the global pandemic, and the government on Jan. 23 instituted a strict lockdown in the city of 11 million people. Guangchang cited reports of Chinese families being barricaded inside their own homes, and the group Human Rights Watch compiled stories of residents reportedly dying from lack of access to care during the lockdown.
“Whole families have been found dead in their apartments because they could not get out,” he said, noting that despite the CCP’s claim that it has the virus under control, lockdowns are currently in force in the city of Harbin.
“This is despite the authorities ordering everyone back to work and telling the outside world that they have the virus under control,” Guangcheng said. “The resurgence is directly related to the CCP hiding the truth, and cracking down on people who tried to share information on the virus.”
He also claimed that the CCP has been using the crisis caused by the pandemic to crack down on dissent, detaining human rights activists at separate “so-called quarantine sites.”
The wife of one human rights lawyer—who had just been released from prison told The Guardian that she feared the government was putting her husband under house arrest near where he was imprisoned, 400 kilometers away from her, under the guise of a quarantine.
According to World Health Organization (WHO) statistics, China’s number of COVID-19 cases rose considerably through January and February to 79,389 on Feb. 29 with 2,838 deaths, before its daily increase in case numbers slowed to a trickle in March including just one new reported case on March 22 in the country of more than 1.4 billion people.
Just 3,352 deaths were reported on April 16 before the reported number jumped to 4,642 the next day.
“There is nothing about the CCP’s numbers that are believable,” Guangcheng said. “What people are calculating is that roughly 700,000 may have died in China—in terms of people who have been infected, no one knows the numbers.”
For instance, he said, during the Wuhan lockdown citizen journalists claimed that the situation was far worse than the CCP was reporting; they recorded people collapsing in the streets and hearses and vans carrying body bags at all hours of the day.
“In summary, the CCP is the biggest and most serious virus of all, with over 193,000 people dead worldwide from the coronavirus,” the lawyer said. “There should be no question of the regime’s threat.”
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