by WorldTribune Staff, April 8, 2020
A timeline for the coronavirus published by China’s official propaganda outlet Xinhua failed to mention several critical events in the crisis.
In the timeline it published on April 6, Xinhua claimed China “has shared information and advanced international cooperation” in the fight against the Wuhan coronavirus.
The 37-page timeline, Xinhua said, includes the “main facts and measures China has taken” to contain the virus. In particular, it hailed the role of President Xi Jinping and other Chinese Communist Party (CCP) leaders.
However, the Daily Mail on April 8 listed several crucial points which were omitted from Xinhua’s timeline:
1. The whistleblowers
Eight Wuhan medical workers who sounded the alarm on the virus at the end of December were accused of spreading fake news and reprimanded by police.
Dr. Li Wenliang, who died of the coronavirus on Feb. 7 after contracting it on the front line, was one of them.
As early as Dec. 30, Dr. Li had posted messages to a social media chat group used by local medics, warning them of “SARS at a Wuhan seafood market”. The warning came more than three weeks before Wuhan went into lockdown.
A statement from Wuhan police on Jan. 1 condemned Dr Li and the others of spreading “inauthentic” information without proof. Officers said the medical workers’ acts had brought a bad impact on society, and they would be “dealt with” by authorities, according to a previous report by Xinhua.
These events were not mentioned in the Xinhua timeline.
2. The Huanan seafood market
Researchers have linked the coronavirus to the Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, a once-popular wet market in the city of 11 million.
One of the earliest connections between the virus and Huanan can be traced back to a statement from the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission. It claimed that 27 cases had been identified in the market as of Dec. 31 and the city’s officials had started to study its association with Huanan.
Other reports suggested that the very first patient had no connection with the market.
The market was closed on Jan. 1 in relation to the “pneumonia epidemic” by the local market watchdog, according to a report by state-run China News citing Wuhan Evening News.
The Xinhua timeline did not refer to the Huanan market or its connection to the pandemic.
3. ‘Gag order’
A high-profile investigative report accused Chinese officials of ordering labs to stop testing and destroy all samples of the coronavirus in the very early stages of the outbreak.
On Jan. 1, officials from the Hubei Health Commission slapped the gag order on some gene-sequencing companies which had identified a new strain of SARS-like coronavirus as early as Dec. 27, said the report.
The date was more than a week before the first patient in Wuhan, a 61-year-old man, died of the virus on Jan. 9.
The revelation was made by one of the most referenced investigative reports about China’s coronavirus outbreak, published by pioneering Beijing-based media group Caixin on Feb. 26. It was shared tens of thousands, if not millions, times on Chinese social media platform WeChat, before disappearing. An English version of the article still lives on Caixin’s website.
Xinhua’s timeline did not mention any lab-testing efforts in December.
4. When did Xi know
Xinhua’s timeline, as well as many state media reports, claimed that supreme leader Xi Jinping “made instructions on epidemic response” when presiding over a meeting of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau of the CPC Central Committee on Jan. 7.
An investigation into public government documents and official reports reveals that Xi’s speech was not mentioned in any reports until Feb. 15, a rarity for Chinese propaganda.
A report by Xinhua on Jan. 7 about the political meeting was titled “Xi Jinping hosted a CCP leadership meeting” and did not refer to the viral pneumonia in Wuhan.
Radio Francia Internacional branded Jan. 7 as a “mysterious point in time” for Xi.
A commentary on March 3 said that it was “very interesting” for a Chinese leader to have to point out a time reference about himself, especially considering China’s “powerful propaganda machine.”
Xinhua first reported Xi giving instructions on the coronavirus outbreak on Jan. 20.
5. The mysterious ‘zero case’ days
Wuhan reported no new coronavirus cases between Jan. 6 and 17 when the city was holding a series of important political meetings known as the “two sessions.” Nearly 700 officials, lawmakers and government representatives attended the conferences.
By Jan. 5, the city’s health commission had recorded 59 cases and no deaths.
The 12 days would have been critical in preventing the virus from spreading, but officials either reported zero new cases or did not release a daily update.
“Like this, Wuhan, a city of 11 million people, missed the key 12 days to block a malignant epidemic disease from spreading further,” said Shanghai-based news outlet Yicai in a Feb. 1 report.
The Xinhua timeline listed 25 entries under the 12 days to give details about a variety of official actions, including the isolation of the first novel coronavirus strain, the development of testing kits and a statement from the World Health Organization on the outbreak.
It did not mention any new cases in the period.
6. Wuhan mayor admitted slow reactions
Zhou Xianwang, the mayor of Wuhan, confessed to state broadcaster CCTV on Jan. 27 that his team had not released information about the situation “in time.”
Zhou disclosed at a press conference the day before that around five million Wuhan residents had left the city before all forms of transport were halted on Jan. 23. Zhou said those people had left because of the Lunar New Year as well as “public opinions.” Nine million people were in Wuhan when it was locked down, he said.
Xinhua’s timeline did not mention Zhou’s comments, which were widely reported by media outlets in and outside of China.
7. The disease is ‘largely controllable’
The condition of the patients who suffered the “mysterious viral pneumonia” was “largely controllable,” reported Xinhua in a Jan. 10 article, citing an expert.
Professor Hu Ke from Hubei Provincial People’s Hospital claimed that most patients had developed minor to medium symptoms and some of the earliest patients had recovered and left the hospital.
The article was published one day before Wuhan reported its first death from COVID-19 and five days after another Xinhua report said no evidence showed that the virus could spread from one person to another.
The timeline did not mention either article.