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Why Beijing Covered Up China’s New Outbreak and Won’t Accept Foreign Aid

Is the CCP trying to blame the 'blank paper' protests for a pandemic it lost control over?
Published: January 4, 2023
Two paramilitary police officers secure an area along a street during the Belt and Road Forum in Beijing on April 25, 2019. (Image: NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP via Getty Images)

Lei’s Real Talk

The world is anxiously watching China’s COVID-19 cases surge as the 1.4 billion Chinese struggle to survive the pandemic blowing through the country. Today, we’ll talk about how Beijing has covered up the outbreak and who it will blame for the public health disaster, and why it won’t accept foreign aid. 

Also worth discussing is how Western countries can develop a better strategy to deal with China’s outbreak, which can lead to global public health and economic crisis.

China’s recent pandemic situation

On Dec. 19, Beijing officially announced two COVID-19 deaths — China’s first reported fatalities in weeks — after it eased its strict “zero-COVID” approach, despite various videos, social media posts, and reports, including those from relatives of victims and people who work in the funeral business, that prove otherwise. Chinese don’t believe Beijing’s data, which has lost its creditability. 

The Chinese are desperately looking for over-the-counter drugs to relieve pain and fever. I’ve seen Chinese parents offering 10,000 Chinese yuan (US$1500) to get a bottle of Tylenol or Ibuprofen for their child suffering from fever. Videos show the Chinese waiting outside a drug manufacturing plant hoping to get medicine before it goes to retail. 

And this shortage has extended overseas. A list of countries and regions that have seen the Chinese buying large quantities of Ibuprofen and paracetamol (Tylenol) include Taiwan, Japan, Canada, New Zealand, the U.S., Australia, the United Kingdom, and others. Japanese media has reported local Chinese merchants shipping large amounts of Japanese product to China. In Taiwan, politicians are discussing if they should support the mainland or ban exportation of such medicines to the mainland. 

The supply shortage is part of the broader meltdown occurring throughout China’s medical system. Chinese doctors are so overworked that one of the videos coming out of China shows an exhausted doctor passing out in front of his patients. 

We’ve only seen the outbreak for two weeks since Beijing announced the new 10 public health measures on Dec. 7. The timing seemed perfect. The CCP abruptly relaxed the “zero-COVID” policy, and then the cases surged. But that may be what Beijing wants us to believe. 

A regime insider reveals the failure of ‘zero-COVID’

A senior cadre in the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) Political and Legal Affairs establishment told Radio Free Asia (RFA) on Dec. 19 anonymously that the outbreak in Beijing started as early as the Party Congress, which was held during the last week of October. He said that large-scale infections occurred in Beijing’s hospitals before “zero-COVID” policy was lifted. Medical professionals and older people were hard-hit. But the authorities have been hiding the truth.

He said that his family member was living in a Beijing hospital for rehab. Because Beijing was hosting the Party Congress, the hospital did not allow patients to be discharged, saying that there was a risk of COVID spreading inside, but in fact staff and patients were already infected. 

But because the Party Congress was going on, the authorities didn’t want the hospitals to release these patients. Also, because of the strict “zero-COVID” policy, hospitals did not report the real COVID cases nor treat the COVID patients. Patients were given a random diagnosis, such as a urinary tract infection or unknown fever. Anyway, the doctors didn’t say the patients had COVID. They didn’t even bother to test the patients to avoid getting positive results. Because this official, the one who talked to RFA, is a VIP, the doctor gave his relative a more effective antigen test, and it came out positive.

The official said that his relative was infected at the hospital during rehab, and later got transferred to a few of the top hospitals in Beijing to get treatment, probably after the Party Congress was over. The anonymous official said his family member eventually died of COVID. But the cause of death was officially urinary tract infection. 

This person revealed that major hospitals in Beijing had begun seeing large COVID outbreaks before the “Blank Paper Revolution” and that by the beginning of December, the situation was completely out of control. The only thing the Beijing Municipal Health Commission and hospitals did was to restrict patients from being discharged and to prevent healthcare workers from going home, while strictly withholding information to the outside world. 

Hospitals did not dare to report COVID cases or treat COVID patients without permission from top authorities. It was only after the official announcement of the death of retired CCP head Jiang Zemin that information about the outbreak in Beijing was gradually released to the public, but by this time, a large number of elderly people infected with COVID were either dead or in critical condition. And the Beijing hospitals were already in chaos. 

The insider said the cover-up directly resulted in the death of many retired CCP officials. Some of the officials who died in the hospitals were high-ranking. 

This person told RFA that he always thought he had great social connections and resources, but what happened to him and his family made him realize he was helpless. He said he was at the top 1 percent of the social ladder in Beijing. But in the face of the pandemic surge, official or administrative ranks don’t mean much anymore because every facility is running well over capacity.

Despite his rank, the insider still had to wait five days to arrange the cremation of a deceased relative. 

When did the recent outbreaks actually begin?

Looking back, there was a series of events that seem to match what he said and can prove that the outbreak already started before the Blank Paper Movement. 

On Nov. 20, the Canadian Visa Centre in Beijing announced that it would be closed starting Nov. 22, and no date was given for reopening. VFS Global, the operator that handles visa services for foreign countries in China, also closed some of its Beijing visa centers on Nov. 22. 

At the time protests were breaking out, Shanghai issued several measures requiring stockpiling of supplies for at least 60 days. Before that, Shandong province decided to spend 23 billion to construct 119 permanent quarantine camps. On Nov. 28, the U.S. Embassy in China called on American citizens in China to stockpile supplies for 14 days. On Dec. 11, Japan closed its visa operations in China. On Dec. 14, a WHO director revealed that China had an explosive number of cases before the regime relaxed the “zero-COVID” policy. The same day, the White House said the U.S. was ready to help if Beijing requested assistance with the outbreak. On Dec. 15, the U.S. suspended all visa services in China. On the same day, Germany also stopped visa services in China. 

When reviewed together, these events support the argument that a major outbreak already took place long before the CCP officially relaxed its “zero-COVID” policy on Dec. 7. And Western governments and organizations would have known about these hidden outbreaks before the Blank Paper Movement occurred. 

On Dec. 20, Reuters reported that some U.S. and European officials were struggling to figure out how, or if, they can help Beijing to mitigate a crisis that will hurt the global economy, further constrain supply chains and spawn new COVID variants of concern.

It said that democratic governments are struggling to find a diplomatic way to help China stem a burgeoning crisis with global health and economic implications in a way that the Chinese government is willing to accept.

Beijing prepares a judo move to blame anti-lockdown protests 

I think Western countries should develop a better strategy. Trying to find a diplomatic way to offer China help is futile because the CCP won’t accept the aid. Its aim isn’t to save lives, but preserve the regime. The anonymous Beijing official also said in his interview with RFA that the CCP would blame the surge of COVID cases in China on the Blank Paper Movement — giving the Party even less incentive to take foreign aid.  

By the time the protests broke out, Beijing knew that the pandemic was already getting out of control. So Beijing ended “zero-COVID” swiftly after the authorities saw the movement as the perfect excuse to blame for the outbreak. The CCP will take the opportunity to channel the public’s anger toward the Blank Paper Movement. The CCP may persecute some people who demanded political freedom in the movement and call them the hostile forces that caused the massive outbreak. 

In my video about Beijing’s sudden U-turn on economic policies during the resurgence of COVID outbreaks, I described how higher CCP authorities criticized Wuxi city of Jiangsu Province for not having enough COVID cases and how the regime wants to get as many people to have COVID as possible. 

Beijing is pushing for the peak of this wave to come as fast as it can, ideally to have the wave over by March, because if it drags on too long, it will be hard for them to associate it with the Blank Paper protests. Therefore, as long as Beijing plans to blame the protests and outside forces, it cannot accept assistance from foreign countries. The CCP will find it difficult to blame the United States while getting American help.  

I think the United States and other Western countries should develop a better strategy for dealing with the CCP in this public health crisis. To mitigate the impact on the global economy and public health, they should do the right thing by being transparent. They should have let the Chinese and people around the world know about the pending crisis in China early on. The WHO should have sent out warnings. But we didn’t see that. Western mainstream media didn’t report it, either. It was not until social media videos and posts from China were leaked that the WHO and Western media started to write about China’s outbreak. 

Only by sticking to the principle of transparency will the West successfully push Beijing to acknowledge the outbreak publicly and be responsible in managing the pandemic. Trying to save the CCP’s face is most unwise and counter-productive because it will make the West subject to CCP’s agenda. 

Western countries should not be concerned with saving the CCP’s face because it can’t be saved. Its face is not salvageable. Its credibility over the pandemic has tanked to nothing right now. Chinese people are angry at the two deaths Beijing reported. By covering up the Party’s embarrassment, the West will only hurt its own credibility. 

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