By Temisan Amoye,
From time, politicians playing politics with human lives has been the natural order of things. Millions of lives have been needlessly lost to wars, political ideologies and policies.
The deeds of politicians affects every member of the society, both rich and poor. No other profession has that kind of range. I have always thought to myself about how politicians will be the death and destruction of humanity.
The still-unfolding events of the last four months have gone on to show as much.
It was an ordinary day in January, I was surfing the net for news and i saw something on some disease in China, didn’t pay too much attention to it.
I mean my team Liverpool were on a high, firmly on course to clinch the much-coveted Premier league trophy, the Nigerian political scene was charged with the usual politicking of unseating and imposing, US-Iran tensions were on a high with the Killing of Gen Qassim Soleimani and subsequent retaliation by Iran with rocket attacks on a US base in Iraq.
Tensions from Iran shooting down a Ukrainian Airliner over Tehran, massive anti-government protests, in India, Hong Kong down to Chile.
So I confess, some disease with sketchy and unconfirmed details in faraway China didn’t give me any cause for concern. I mean at that point Nigeria was going through a Lassa fever outbreak.
That disease the Wuhan coronavirus, COVID-19 or hoax, whatever you chose to call it in four months, has altered the course of human life like other pandemics before it. Going on to infect 3,503,622 persons globally, and has recorded 227,638 fatalities. A little silver lining is a fact that 1,129,056 individuals have fully recovered from the virus as of 3rd May 2020.
Things might have taken a different course, had the Chinese communist authorities acted responsibly. Instead, they would go from suppression and denial to silly use of propaganda in such sensitive times.
The COVID-19 coronavirus originated in the Chinese industrial city of Wuhan, leading President Trump to call it the Wuhan Coronavirus (which I see nothing wrong in), in line with diseases being named after their places of discovery. Like how the disease named Lassa Fever, an arenavirus got its name, it could easily have been named AVID-59.
The source of the virus varies from the infamous wildlife markets to research labs, of which the city is home to the Wuhan Institute of Virology which has drawn up a slew of conspiracy theories.
Fortunately, research has shown the virus has natural origins putting those conspiracies to bed.
The popular wildlife market has been accepted as the most likely source of the virus as it was with the SARS influenza of 2003, with bats and pangolins thrown around as possible carriers.
Despite China’s clean hands in the origin of the virus, the same cannot be said about their transparency and management.
Early reports showed moves by authorities to censor and suppress doctors who were sharing information on a new SARS-like virus making people sick. Li Wenliang one of the first whistleblowers, who would subsequently lose his life to the disease was sanctioned by the communist authorities for “making false comments that had severely disturbed the social order.
You may wonder why? In China, it is pertinent for the authorities of the sole and ruling Communist Party of China to control every bit of information in circulation. Unsanctioned information running amok isn’t good for the stability of the social order. Explains the heavy use of censors, and ban of Western-owned media websites such as Wikipedia, Youtube, Google, Twitter, Reuters.
By controlling information, the communist authorities control the narrative which they have used to craft the image of the communist system of government as a more stable and reliable way, compared to other systems. When you think of it, how many democracies function “efficiently” as China?
For the Chinese authorities, the stability of social order seems to be more important than human lives in the face of a looming health crisis, considering China’s history with SARS.
In China’s recent history, it is not uncommon for Communist authorities to place communism over human lives.
1989 Tiananmen Square Massacre wasn’t too long ago, where student-led protests for democratic reforms, ending corruption in the communist party, was viewed as a political threat and violently cracked down on, leading to thousands of deaths. With the leaders of the protest jailed or exiled.
Chairman Mao’s Great Leap Foward a plan to transform China into a model communist society through agricultural collectivization, people communes, propaganda amongst others, led to economic devastation, a famine that was responsible for the death of at least 18 million Chinese, with some estimates putting it at 45 million.
It is on record that while Chinese starved, Chairman Mao approved the exports of grains, in hopes of giving the communist image a boost.
Instead of admitting failure or “self-criticism” for how the Great Leap Forward turned out, Chairman Mao would go on to blame the failure on remaining capitalist and revisionist who must be eradicated for a successful communist state, instigating the Cultural Revolution that led to massacres and deaths of hundreds of thousands, cannibalism and purge of perceived “rivals” in the Communist Party.
Communism is also responsible for the treatment of the Uighurs in Xinjiang province, where reports of as many as a million Muslims locked in reformation (torture and internment) camps. Until they renounce their faith. In communism, there’s no room for religion, human rights or any other interfering ideology.
It’s no surprise that modern-day- China ruled by President Xi Jinping would suppress any information that could lead to an unstable system, economic problems and a dent on the carefully crafted image and regime of a man who has been touted as the most powerful Chinese communist leader since Chairman Mao.
Going on to enshrine himself into the Chinese way of life, with the inclusion of the “Xi Jinping Thought” in the communist party constitution. Chairman Mao shares the same honour.
For weeks China would go from denying the existence of such a virus to acknowledging but downplaying the possible severity, leaving a lot to be desired about the transparency of the Chinese authorities. Claiming there was no evidence of human to human transmission, despite Taiwan alluding to possible evidence.
WHO has a lot to answer for, especially not acknowledging Taiwan’s grave concerns and warnings. The World Health Organization has no business playing politics, least in a situation where human lives are involved. When did the so-called “One-China” policy take precedent over human lives?
The authorities after accepting the gravity of what lay ahead ordered a lockdown of Wuhan, the epicentre of the disease. With 5 million people leaving before the enforcement, 4000 of those left for abroad. Allowing 5 million individuals leave the epicentre of a virus just before a lockdown seems counter-productive to me.
The coming days would see the COVID-19 virus spread and infect millions globally. Had the Chinese authorities heeded the early warnings, acted responsibly and transparently in their dealings, it would have saved the world hundreds of thousands of lives, social upheaval, trillions of dollars and the mental stress of living through a pandemic.
Had China acted responsibly, the likes of Donald Trump and Boris Johnson would have no excuse for their initial lax response knowing the severity of what laid ahead, with both countries recording incredibly high cases and fatalities. Spain and Italy would have been spared such widespread deaths in such a short time.
Nigeria’s visionary martyr, Mallam Abba Kyari would have been with us, rendering his selfless-service to his nation and boss.
Seeing the ongoing carnage caused by the Chinese authorities preference for stability, one would have expected them to be remorseful at least. Have they shown any such signs?
Despite the Chinese state and Communist party-backed Jack Ma’s benevolence, through the donation of aid and supply to helpless Africa, which also doubles as propaganda material for China home and abroad, the image of China has taken some battering.
With American, German, British and Australian authorities angling for repatriations and investigations into the origins and the handling of the virus. A move which has sparked a furious reaction from China, going as far as threatening economic retaliation on Australia.
Evidence of racism, anti-western propaganda, reports of faulty and unreliable masks, test kits and other medical equipment hasn’t helped either. Slovakia, Germany, Spain, Turkey all had complaints about the efficacy of tests-kits.
Videos of Nigerians and other Africans being singled out, evicted, harrassed is plain racism. The disease has no preference for race, so on what grounds were the blacks evicted from their homes into the streets, while their European, American and Asian counterparts were left out?
Social media was rife with a video of a Nigerian diplomat questioning the Chinese authorities and their motives. The condescending attitude of his Chinese counterpart was clear to see.
After initial denials, no apologies were offered, the authorities in their usual and characteristic manner came up with a lame-duck explanation that holds no water.
While the world struggled with the pandemic, the Chinese authorities turned on the propaganda switch.
The Chinese communist authorities created the narrative that the Chinese people made “sacrifices” by entering a lockdown, to slow the spread rate, so the rest of the world could be adequately prepared to tackle the COVID-19 virus, but those sacrifices were wasted by western democracies.
About high death numbers recorded abroad, considering China has recorded less than 5,000 casualties. A figure no one believes, knowing China’s stance on transparency.
According to The Economist “The Intelligence” podcast, those claims were backed by videos of American politicians criticising Pres Donald Trump for his early response. A move that helped cool the mood of the Chinese populace toward the party.
If that wasn’t ludicrous enough, a Chinese govt spokesman posted propaganda insinuating that American troops were responsible for introducing the virus to China, when they came over for sports games in Wuhan.
There’s still the gobsmacking story of US state senator, receiving a mail asking him to sponsor legislation praising China for its efforts in handling the COVID-19 pandemic, after further digging, it was revealed that the mail was sent by the Chinese Consul-General in Chicago.
Leaves you wondering, “what are they smoking over there in Beijing”? Liverpool’s John Henry’s quote easily comes to mind.
Beijing knows its strategic importance to the world, It manufactures for the whole world, and finances half of it. It has real political and economic leverage on its hands, and that has emboldened it.
Emboldened it to violate the rights of individuals, its 2020 and people are still being persecuted by the state for being religious.
Despite Hong Kong and Taiwan’s rejection of Beijing, the latter has been solidly touting the One-China policy about, restricting nations and institutions from recognising Taiwan as a sovereign nation.
China has used it might to bully its neighbours on the South China Sea dispute, which each passing transgression, Beijing is getting bolder and bolder.
That same boldness made Beijing think it could suppress a virus that doesn’t conform to human standards and ways.
The best chance the world stood against COVID-19 hinged on Beijing’s transparency, and it failed massively, playing politics with human lives.
When all is done and dusted, the human and economic cost of this virus will be historic.
The world is going to have to ask itself, are we going to put cheap labour, manufacturing and easy loans over human rights and lives?
Also, do the authorities in China want to be seen as an ideal alternative to the West or just another oppressor using aids and its economic might as weapons?