We are reprinting the following open letter signed by scholars of China and senior political figures as part of Viral Alarm — China Heritage Annual 2020, a work related to the 2019-2020 Covid-19 crisis and the dilemmas confronting China and the world.
— Geremie R. Barmé
Editor, China Heritage
14 April 2020
One hundred China experts and senior political figures have signed an open letter describing the Chinese Communist Party [CCP] government’s cover up of COVID-19 as “China’s Chernobyl moment”. The group of signatories, who include some of the world’s leading authorities on Chinese politics, law, and modern history, say that the Chinese government’s rule by fear endangers Chinese citizens—and the world.
The open letter by these leading China watchers and concerned political leaders responds to another open letter released by a group of China-based establishment academics who accused critical voices of “politicizing” the COVID-19 pandemic. This narrative has also been frequently repeated by CCP government official spokespeople, and also recently, by the head of the WHO. The CCP government has launched a crackdown on Chinese journalists reporting critically on the COVID-19 crisis and it is now censoring scientific research on the origins of the pandemic.
The co-signed international public figures, analysts, and China watchers argue that:
- “The roots of the pandemic stem from the initial cover-up and mishandling of the spread of COVID-19 by CCP authorities in Wuhan.”
- “Under the influence of the CCP government, the World Health Organisation initially downplayed the pandemic. Taiwanese health officials allege that WHO ignored their alerts of human-to-human transmission in late December. Under pressure from the CCP, democratic Taiwan—which has coped with the pandemic in exemplary fashion—is currently excluded from the WHO.”
- The China watchers and other signatories say that “China’s Chernobyl moment is a self-inflicted wound. The CCP silenced Chinese doctors who wanted to warn other health professionals during the early stage of the outbreak.”
- The experts urge foreign governments to “engage in a critical evaluation of the impact of CCP policies on the lives of Chinese citizens and citizens around the world.”
The letter is signed by one hundred distinguished experts in the field of politics, history, law, and Chinese Studies. Members of the European, Australian, Estonian and Lithuanian Parliament as well as Members of the U.K. House of Commons and House of Lords also signed the open letter. It was edited and translated by Dr Andreas Fulda from the School of Politics and International Relations at the University of Nottingham and is hosted by three security policy think-tanks, the Ottawa-based Macdonald Laurier Institute, the London-based Henry Jackson Society and the Prague-based European Values Center for Security Policy.
Press release: Experts say Chinese government COVID-19 cover-up is a Chernobyl Moment
An Open Letter to Chinese Citizens and Friends of China at Home and Abroad
The current global crisis has been caused by the regime so many of you have been tolerating or supporting for decades.
On 2 April 2020 a group of one hundred Chinese establishment scholars wrote an open letter decrying the “many critical voices politicizing the COVID-19 pandemic”. They stated that “(at) this stage of the pandemic, the exact source and origin of COVID-19 remain undetermined, but these questions are unimportant and finger pointing is demeaning and hurtful to everyone”. They also argued against what they alleged is the politicizing of the epidemic.
The open letter exemplifies what the independent intellectual Professor Xu Zhangrun has called the “ridiculous ‘Red Culture’ and the nauseating adulation that the system heaps on itself via shameless pro-Party hacks who chirrup hosannahs at every turn”.
Professor Xu—now under house arrest—has called on his compatriots to stop their uncritical support for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and instead to “rage against this injustice; let your lives burn with a flame of decency; break through the stultifying darkness and welcome the dawn”.
While the exact source and spread of the virus are not clear yet the question of origin is highly important, for the people of China and for all humankind: only by understanding how this global disaster could emerge we can prevent it from happening again.
The roots of the pandemic are in a cover-up by CCP authorities in Wuhan, Hubei province. Under the influence of the CCP the World Health Organisation first downplayed the pandemic. Taiwanese health officials also allege that they ignored their alerts of human-to-human transmission in late December. Under pressure from the CCP, democratic Taiwan—which has coped with the pandemic in exemplary fashion—is excluded from the WHO.
We should never forget that China’s Chernobyl moment was a self-inflicted wound. The CCP silenced Chinese doctors who wanted to warn other health professionals during the early stage of the outbreak: Dr Ai Fen can no longer appear in public after accepting a domestic media interview; her colleague Dr Li Wenliang died while fighting the virus in Wuhan. On his deathbed Dr Li famously said that “a healthy society shouldn’t have only one voice”.
我们永远都不要忘记，中国的“切尔诺贝利时刻”是一个自我伤害的伤口。 中共压制了中国医生，他们想在疫情爆发初期警告其他卫生专业人员：艾芬医生在接受国内一家媒体的采访后就被禁声了； 她的同事李文亮医生在武汉与该病毒作斗争时死亡。 李医生在临终时曾留下广为流传的一句话：“健康的社会不应只有一种声音”。
The Chinese entrepreneur Ren Zhiqiang wrote that “without a media representing the interests of the people by publishing the actual facts, the people’s lives are being ravaged by both the virus and the major illness of the system.” He disappeared on March 12.
中国企业家任志强写道 “没有了媒体代表人民利益去公告事实的真相，剩下的就是人民的生命被病毒和体制的重病共同伤害的结果。” 他于3月12日失踪。
The courageous citizen journalists Chen Qiushi, Fang Bin and Li Zehua, who tried to report freely about the situation in Wuhan, now are also missing.
Mainland China’s political malaise goes beyond the leadership failure of Xi Jinping. In a recent video message a young student called Zhang Wenbin reflected on his evolution from an uncritical CCP supporter to a critical citizen with a conscience: “Since I scaled the Great Firewall, I gradually came to the realization that the Chinese Communist Party has extended its dragon claws into every corner of the world, including collective farming [1950s], the Cultural Revolution [1966-1976], the Great Famine [1958-1961], the One-Child Policy, the Tiananmen massacre , as well as the persecution of the Falun Gong [spiritual movement], and the peoples of Tibet, Hong Kong and Xinjiang…Yet everyone continues to turn a blind eye, singing the party’s praises. I just can’t bear it”. Zhang disappeared shortly after recording his message. His friends fear he will face interrogation and torture by the secret police.
中国内地的政治困境不仅仅是习近平领导的失败，而且有其他因素。 在最近的一段视频信息中，一位叫张文斌的大学生反思了他从一个非批判的中共支持者到一个有良知的具有批判性的中国公民的过程：“(自从我) 翻墙之后慢慢认清共产党邪恶的嘴脸。中国共产党从土地改革、文化大革命、三年饥荒、计划生育、六四屠杀、对法轮功的迫害、对西藏、香港和新疆人民的迫害，到今天它已经将魔爪伸向了全世界，而大家还都视而不见，甚至还在歌功颂德，我实在无法忍受。” 张先生在记录他的视频后不久就消失了。 他的朋友担心他会受到当局的讯问和酷刑。
The global pandemic forces us all to confront an inconvenient truth: by politicizing all aspects of life including people’s health, continued autocratic one-party rule in the People’s Republic of China has endangered everyone. Rather than trusting the CCP’s intentions and accepting establishment academics’ uncritical approval of the party-state’s policies, we should pay greater attention to the voices of what can be termed ‘unofficial’ China. These independent-minded academics, doctors, entrepreneurs, citizen journalists, public interest lawyers and young students no longer accept the CCP’s rule by fear. Neither should you.
全球大流行病迫使我们所有人面对一个不便的事实：中华人民共和国的一党专制统治继续包括人民健康在内的生活各个方面政治化，从而危害了所有人。 我们不应该相信中共的意图并接受官方学者对党国政策的不予批判的认可，而应该更加关注非官方中国的声音。 这些思想独立的学者、医生、企业家、公民记者、公益律师和大学生不再接受中共以恐吓为主的政治统治方式。 您也不应接受这样的恐吓。
As an international group of public figures, security policy analysts and China watchers we stand in solidarity with courageous and conscientious Chinese citizens including Xu Zhangrun, Ai Fen, Li Wenliang, Ren Zhiqiang, Chen Qiushi, Fang Bin, Li Zehua, Xu Zhiyong, and Zhang Wenbin, just to name a few of the real heroes and martyrs who risk their life and liberty for a free and open China. Their individual voices are already forming a chorus. They demand nothing less than a critical evaluation of the impact of CCP policies on the lives of Chinese citizens and citizens around the world. We urge you to join them.
作为公众人士、安全政策研究者和中国观察者国际团体的成员，我们与勇敢有良知的中国公民站在一起。在此仅列举一些英雄：许章润、艾芬、李文亮、任志强、陈秋实、方斌、李泽华、许志永和张文斌，他们为自由开放的中国冒着生命和自由的危险。 他们各自的声音已经汇成一首合唱曲。 他们呼吁重新批判性地评估中共的政策，以及这些政策对中国公民和全球各国公民所带来的影响。 我们也敦促您加入他们。
A list of signatures can be seen here.
- International open letter against the CCP’s rule by fear—and its accomplices, European Values, 14 April 2020
Update, 20 April 2020
The open letter ‘The Chinese Communist Party’s rule by fear endangers Chinese citizens—and the world’ on Tuesday, published on 14 April 2020, enjoyed a groundswell of support. More than 200 public figures, security analysts, China specialists and professionals from the US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Mainland China, India, Singapore, South Korea, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand, Philippines, Kenya, United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, France, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, Austria, Italy, Spain, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, and Georgia signed the letter.
Journalists reported widely about this initiative. There was, however, one noteworthy vilification: The Global Times, a quasi-official mouthpiece of the Beijing authorities was particularly underwhelmed. An editorial dated 16 April denounced signatories of the letter as ‘bottom-barrel, disqualified, self-claimed academics [who are] peddling hate by smearing China in an attempt to steal the spotlight’.
Chinese-Language Media Reports
Voice of America:
Radio Free Asia:
MacDonald-Laurier Institute (Video):
China Heritage Annual 2020
Table of Contents
- Josh Rudolf, comp., ‘Wolves Everywhere Under Heaven — China’s Covid-19 Global Diplomacy’, China Heritage, 3 May 2020
- Zi Zhongyun 資中筠, ‘1900 & 2020 — An Old Anxiety in a New Era’, China Heritage, 28 April 2020
- Li Zehua 李澤華, ‘Holding Fast’, China Heritage, 23 April 2020
- Lee Yee 李怡, ‘The End of Hong Kong’s Third Way’, China Heritage, 22 April 2020
- Kristin Shi-Kupfer, ‘Beijing’s Battle with Viral Humanity’, China Heritage, 20 April 2020
- Tsering Woeser and Ian Boyden, ‘Poems from a Plague — a Tibetan Meditation’, China Heritage, 18 April 2020
- ‘Insisting and Acting on the Truth’, China Heritage, 16 April 2020
- ‘Freedom from Fear & an Inconvenient Truth’, China Heritage, 14 April 2020
- ‘A Shared Perigean Moon’, China Heritage, 8 April 2020
- ‘Thanatopsis — 4 April 2020’, China Heritage, 4 April 2020
- Joan Judge, ‘The Truth is the Most Effective Vaccine’, China Channel, 3 April 2020
- ‘The Stone Monkey’ — a diversion during a plague, China Heritage, 1 April 2020
- ‘The Heart of The One Grows Ever More Arrogant and Proud’, China Heritage, 10 March 2020
- Ren Zhiqiang 任志強, ‘Denunciation of Xi Jinping: stripping the clothes of a clown who is determined to be emperor’ ‘任志強「討習檄文」：剝光了衣服堅持當皇帝的小丑’,《新世纪》, 2020年3月6日 (for a partial translation, see Josh Rudolph, ‘Essay by Missing Property Tycoon Ren Zhiqiang’, China Digital Times, 13 March 2020; and for a full translation, see You Shu, ‘Ren Zhiqiang’s Essay’, 5 April 2020)
- Zhao Shilin 趙士林, ‘Gengzi Memorial to the Throne’, ‘庚子上書’, 《中國數字時代》, 2020年3月9日
- Xu Zhiyong 許志永, ‘Dear Chairman Xi, It’s Time for You to Go’, ChinaFile, 26 February 2020
- Guo Yuhua 郭於華, ‘The Poison in China’s System’, China Heritage, 6 March 2020
- Xu Zhangrun 許章潤, ‘Viral Alarm — When Fury Overcomes Fear’, China Heritage, 24 February 2020
- 2019-nCoV — A Teaching Moment, Spring Term 2020, China Heritage, 12 February 2020