China Detains Two For Social Media Comments About COVID-19

The ruling Chinese Communist Party is aiming for total control of a one-way flow of information, observers say.
China Detains Two For Social Media Comments About COVID-19 People receive nucleic acid tests for the Covid-19 coronavirus in Shenzhen, in China's southern Guangdong province, June 6, 2021.

Authorities in China are cracking down on information relating to the coronavirus, as a fresh wave of COVID-19 cases hits the southern province of Guangdong.

China reported 21 new coronavirus disease infections on June 9, compared with 16 patients on the previous day, the health ministry said in a statement on Thursday.

Six of the newly confirmed cases were local transmissions in Guangdong. The provincial capital Guangzhou has reported 115 local infections in the recent outbreak that started May 21, state media reported.

Authorities in Guangzhou started mass testing local residents, with nearly 28 million nucleic acid samples taken since the operation started on May 26, health officials told reporters on June 8.

But there is considerable public skepticism over whether the government is under-reporting the outbreak.

A resident of the central city of Wuhan surnamed Guo said he found the numbers in Guangdong suspicious.

"It is said that there are 170,000 medical staff in Guangzhou, which should be enough to treat these patients," Guo said. "Why then are 6,500 medical staff being transferred into Guangzhou from other places to support [local hospitals]?"

He said it was unlikely that anyone within the healthcare system would speak out about the true situation on the ground, however.

"They will get detained even if they just say a few words," Wu said. "They won't let ordinary people say anything."

'Inappropriate comments'

The Shantou Daily newspaper reported that two men were held recently under administrative detention for "rumor-mongering" about the pandemic.

"Chaonan police investigated and dealt with two rumors involving the pandemic, and the two men involved were administratively detained by the public security bureau in accordance with the law," the paper reported.

One of them, surnamed Zhuang, was detained on June 1 for making "inappropriate comments" on the social media platform WeChat, and held for five days for "spreading rumors and disrupting public order," it said.

Another WeChat user surnamed Zhou was detained on June 5 for saying he had tested positive for COVID-19 and sentenced to 10 days' administrative detention, the paper reported.

A Beijing resident surnamed Liu told RFA: "You're not allowed to tell the truth in this pandemic. If you do, and someone retweets it online, you're finished."

"This goes to show how afraid the government is of the truth; it's very strict now."

Legal scholar Li Lin said the authorities are clearly exercising greater and greater control over public speech.

"It's becoming more and more obvious, this tendency towards a higher degree of control," Li told RFA. "They want the [ruling Chinese Communist] Party [CCP] to control everything."

"Information is only allowed to flow in one direction, to the people, and they have to just receive notice of arrangements passively," Li said. "Nobody is allowed to discuss anything or release any information."

"This means that there is no way for the public to participate in public affairs, and [the CCP] actually controls everything," he said.

Reported by Qiao Long and Gigi Lee for RFA's Mandarin and Cantonese Services. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.


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