As death toll climbs, China blames US for coronavirus, 'causing panic'

coronavirus outbreak
Two children wear face masks in China during the 2019-2020 coronavirus outbreak. |

As coronavirus cases and deaths spike in China, Communist officials have attempted to deflect blame away from the central government by accusing the United States of both starting the virus and “causing panic” in its response to the outbreak, according to a human rights outlet.

Religious liberty magazine Bitter Winter reports that on Jan. 26, China’s military online portal published an article, claiming that the coronavirus is “a biochemical weapon produced by the US to target China.”

“Imperialism has never stopped attacking, destroying, and annihilating China. But China is developing so rapidly that imperialism rips off its mask of hypocrisy and openly acts [against China],” the article says.

The Global Times, a Communist Party-controlled tabloid, also accused the U.S. of “immoral” conduct and repeatedly claimed the West’s response to the disease is stained by “racism” and a “‘yellow peril’ mythology.”

In a briefing for reporters earlier in February, Hua Chunying, a spokesperson for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, similarly deflected blame by citing an “overreaction” from the U.S. government that has “spread fear” and set a “bad example” for other nations, reports the BBC.

“The U.S. is turning from overconfidence to fear and overreaction,” she said, citing the Trump administration’s decision to evacuate some U.S. Embassy personnel and impose a ban on Chinese travelers.

She also accused the U.S. of failing to provide any substantial help to China since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, which emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan and has infected more than 70,548 people in mainland China and killed 1,770. 

Hundreds of cases have been confirmed elsewhere, with the virus being reported in 26 countries in the Asia-Pacific region as well as Europe, North America, Africa and the Middle East.

China’s criticism of the U.S. comes amid widespread dissatisfaction with the Chinese government’s inability to deal with the crisis and seeming lack of transparency over the magnitude of the outbreak.

In an essay, Xu Zhangrun, a law professor from one of the country’s top universities, blamed the crisis on a culture of suppression and “systemic impotence” that Chinese President Xi Jinping has created.

“The cause of all of this lies with The Axelrod and the cabal that surrounds him,” Xu wrote, referring to Xi, according to a translation of the article by historian Geremie Barmé, published Monday by the website ChinaFile.

“It is a system that turns every natural disaster into an even greater man-made catastrophe. The coronavirus epidemic has revealed the rotten core of Chinese governance; the fragile and vacuous heart of the jittering edifice of state has thereby shown up as never before.”

Xu described the outbreak as a “national calamity” that involves politics, the economy and the “nation’s ethical fabric,” making it “more perilous than total war itself.”

Shortly after the article was published, Xu was detained by authorities in the southern city of Guangzhou and remains missing. His girlfriend, Li Qiaochu, a social activist, also went missing on Sunday, according to The New York Times.

Xu had also joined a group of Chinese academics in signing an open letter, calling for the government to issue an apology for reprimanding Li Wenliang, a young doctor who died just weeks after trying to alert the world to the dangers of the illness.

The letter also called for freedom of speech and rights guaranteed by the constitution to be protected amid the government’s efforts to limit dissent in China, according to the South China Morning Post.

Amid the chaos, Christian humanitarian organizations are stepping up to provide hope and physical aid to those suffering. 

International evangelical humanitarian agency World Vision aims to help 390,000 people in 10 Chinese provinces by distributing personal protective equipment and sanitation products that include face masks, thermometers, sanitizers and soap.

Erica Van Deren, World Vision program manager for humanitarian and emergency affairs, told CP the cost of World Vision’s coronavirus-related efforts in China is estimated to be about $3.7 million.

So far, the group has already distributed 50,000 hospital-grade face masks to people in five counties in four provinces. 

“These are incredibly poor families,” she said. “World Vision China has a history of addressing the needs of these communities.”

Additionally, World Help, an organization serving the physical and spiritual needs of people in impoverished communities around the world, announced it is partnering with pastors on the ground to distribute emergency relief in the provinces surrounding Wuhan.

The aid includes protective face masks and food for those living in areas where the coronavirus is spreading. 

While the pastors and other aid workers partnering with World Help are “taking preventive measures,” they are risking their lives to provide aid to those in need, Mark Hogsed, World Help’s vice president of international programs, told CP. 

“Our partners are being as safe as possible, they’re taking every precaution they can, but they feel this is a calling and a time to step up,” he said. “One of the effects of the virus is people are staying inside. They’re not going outside if they don’t have to, so these pastors are choosing to go out into their communities out of love for the people and as a practical way to spread the Gospel."

“We feel strongly that we can be an example of a very practical Gospel,” he added. “This is one way that Christians on the ground can practically help those who need it, even in the face of danger.”

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