Some Whistleblowers are More Equal Than Others
Maitreya Bhakal Published: 04/10/2020
A single death is a tragedy, while that of a million, just statistics, goes a popular saying. For the western media, that has long forgotten the millions of deaths caused by US wars, the tragic death of one man in China couldn’t have come at a better time.
While the whole of China expressed condolences over the unfortunate demise of Dr. Li Wenliang, the western media erupted in glee. Just as Schadenfreude over the epidemic was losing momentum, here comes a “whistleblower” who tried to “warn” the government about the outbreak, but was “silenced” – all catnip to the western media.
So western journalists – who generally care little about Chinese lives – got busy. The first step, as with most reporting on China, was to ignore the facts (truth, after all, is the first casualty of propaganda war).
Contrary to what the US would have people believe, he was not fired. After being disciplined, he went back to work as normal, eventually dying from COVID-19 a few weeks later. His revelations had little effect on the crisis response.
His death caused an outpouring of grief on social media, and for good reason. Some netizens have criticized the local government for failing to act more quickly. Dr. Li was a dedicated doctor who did his duty diligently. Even in hospital for treatment, he vowed to return to the front lines after he recovered. China lost a national treasure. And the government knew it; a subsequent official inquiry exonerated him, and the Party apologized to his family and revoked his admonishment.
But that’s not what the western media were interested in. After all, every tragedy is also an opportunity. They were interested in exploiting his death to criticize and demonize China.
In fact, the doctor who actually notified the CDC of a new disease as far back as December 26 – Dr. Zhang Jixian – has been largely ignored by mainstream western media outlets. No interviews. No hailing her as a hero. Complete radio silence.
Apparently, Chinese “whistleblowers” or Chinese deaths only matter when they can be used to insult China. Reactions of Chinese netizens – which the western media otherwise dismiss as “brainwashed” – are genuine only when they criticize authorities. Dr. Zhang was actually the first to raise the alarm – but it didn’t matter since they couldn’t use her to score cheap political points.
If the western media really cared about whistleblowers and people’s lives – they would also equally care about Julian Assange and Edward Snowden. Or about the 70-year-old who was murdered by Hong Kong’s “pro-democracy” rioters, or another 57-year-old man who was set on fire. Or when they beat up Globaltimes’ reporter Fu Guohao at Hong Kong airport, just like countless others during the riots – even blocking medical personnel from reaching him.
The ultimate purpose is to demonize China – lives and deaths are all secondary.
The word “whistleblower” generally applies to someone who tries to warn the public – which Dr. Li didn’t do. He posted in a private WeChat group that seven “confirmed” cases of SARS were reported from the Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan. He also warned group members not to spread the information further – the exact opposite of whistleblower behavior.
Now that is a pretty serious charge. Considering the havoc that SARS spread throughout the nation 16 years ago, such a rumor could’ve caused unnecessary panic if made public. More importantly, infected people would’ve fled the city in the time it would’ve taken to get approvals to quarantine it – thus spreading the disease further.
Dr. Li was wrong – and late. The disease was not SARS. Moreover, little did he know that the local CDC was already investigating the issue at the time. If he had gone to the CDC with his data points, perhaps more effective action could’ve been taken.
Yet, screenshots got leaked, and the doctor was disciplined (i.e. just made to sign a letter stating he wouldn’t spread such rumors again) by the police for spreading false information. His actions were perfectly understandable from a personal perspective – asking friends and family to stay safe – but he did not go through the proper channels. Moreover, he also leaked confidential details like patients’ medical records, which actually is punishable by law.