Yesterday, the Senate passed my resolution to honor the life of Li Wenliang, the Chinese doctor who heroically tried to warn his fellow citizens and the world about the Wuhan coronavirus late last year.
Dr. Li tragically fell victim to that very disease—but not before he was victimized by his own government, the Chinese Communist Party.
Li was 34 years old when he passed away of coronavirus on February 7th. He had a wife, a young child, and another young child on the way. His whole life was ahead of him. And now his wife is widowed, his child has no father, and his second child will never know his father.
But as Li knew, when you become a doctor you pledge to care for the sick and the dying—whatever the hardships, whatever the cost, whatever the risks to yourself.
So when patients with a severe pneumonia began appearing in Li’s hospital late last year, he sounded the alarm to fellow doctors. And the Chinese Communist Party responded with lightning speed—not to contain this epidemic, but to intimidate Dr. Li and attack his reputation.
Local communist goons paid him a visit days later, forcing him to retract his statements and apologize for so-called “illegal behavior.”
China’s state media piled on, denouncing Li and other whistleblowers as “rumormongers” who were spreading fear among the Chinese people.
That’s been the pattern of the Chinese Communist Party’s response to then coronavirus from the very beginning: First coverup, and then catastrophe.
When Chinese Internet users flooded social media with indignation following Dr. Li’s death, their cries were scrubbed from the Internet by the Communist Party’s army of censors. When a Chinese human-rights activist called for Chairman Xi to step down, he was detained and then “disappeared.” When Wall Street Journal columnist Walter Russell Mead wrote a bracing article about the Chinese Communist Party’s failure to contain the coronavirus, the Communist Party kicked three of the paper’s reporters out of the country.
The Chinese Communist Party’s deception has been so thorough that its rare moments of candor, however obviously helpful, have been quickly suppressed and punished. When the number of reported infections spiked upward due to an improvement in data reporting, the Party purged local officials who were likely responsible. And after Chinese scientists gave the world a head-start in developing a vaccine by publishing the disease’s genome online, what happened? Were they given awards? Were they celebrated? No, their lab was shut down the very next day. Those scientists deserved awards, they deserved a medal; instead, they were given a professional death sentence.
The Chinese people have suffered greatly from this coronavirus. They’re in fact the first and the worst victims of their own communist government. But now the whole world is suffering with them. Just as the bubonic plague spread to Europe via traders on the Silk Road, the Wuhan coronavirus is traveling China’s New Silk Road. It turns out that the Belt and Road Initiative exports not just China’s money and Chinese debt but China’s viruses, as well as its repression; it threatens not only economies around the world, it threatens peoples around the world.
So right next door to China, Iran is suffering a devastating outbreak of coronavirus. And birds of a feather flock together, I have to add: the mullahs in Tehran have emulated the Chinese Communist Party’s shameful response to coronavirus—first denying and then downplaying the outbreak, until it was no longer possible to ignore the bodies stacking up in clinics or the mysterious sickness spreading through the cabinet of Iran’s government itself.
Remember the suffering people in these countries when you hear triumphant, self-congratulatory messages coming from Chinese propaganda rags like Global Times and China Daily—or even the World Health Organization, which I have to say seems more interested in protecting the feelings of the Chinese Communist Party than protecting the health of people around world. China’s propagandists are reportedly hard at work on a book exonerating Chairman Xi for his negligent response to this virus. The official line is that coronavirus is contained and China is back to work.
But don’t believe it. Do not believe the hype. The Chinese Communist Party lied from the very beginning of this outbreak, and it’s lying still. It is responsible for the scale of this virus outbreak around the world. This outbreak didn’t happen in spite of the Chinese Communists’ efforts to contain it, it happened because of the communist system of government.
Three months later, we still don’t know how many people have been infected or killed by coronavirus on the Chinese mainland. All we have are bogus statistics that just so happen to track perfectly—perfectly—with the Communist Party line day after day. I’ll cite just one example: Barron’s, the financial publication, discovered that the official number of deaths could be predicted perfectly in advance—in advance, in China—using a simple mathematical formula. This coronavirus isn’t just contagious and deadly, it’s good at math, as well, if you believe the Chinese Communist Party. But that doesn’t just happen in nature. They’re obviously cooking their books.
It’s not hard to see why. China’s economy has ground to a halt. The Chinese Communist Party is desperate to restart it and avoid the first contraction in the last 30 years, whatever it may cost in lives of the Chinese people. If China is truly “back to work,” as the Chinese Communists claim, that’s only because it has employed communist tactics that evoke the worst horrors of Soviet communism, from Stalin’s Five-Year Plans to Leningrad, 1943. After shutting down almost half the country’s factories to stop the spread of coronavirus, the Chinese Communist Party is opening them again barely one month later. Investors around the world, beware: that decision is motivated not by confidence but by desperation. It will almost certainly lead to more outbreaks, as workers congregate on crowded subways and factory floors—all because the Chinese Communist Party mandarins, living safely behind armed guards and walls in Beijing, decided that hitting their growth target was more important than the peasants’ lives.
When I first called for travel restrictions on China back in late January, Dr. Li was still alive and coronavirus was thankfully far from our shores. Tragically it’s now a global disease, and we have to do all we can to arrest its spread.
The most vital thing China can do is still be open and transparent about the origins and extent of coronavirus. I say to the Chinese Communist Party: stop hiding behind your fake numbers and politically correct bureaucrats at the World Health Organization. Let truly independent experts into Wuhan to investigate this virus. The United States has offered repeatedly—repeatedly—to send a team and would do so tomorrow, if you would just have the humanity to let them in and help save your own people. Finally, give those people the freedom to speak candidly about the disease that has devastated your nation. Do not stifle the next whistleblower, the next doctor, the next nurse, who speaks up to save the lives, not just of their own people, but of people around the world.
Here in America, only time will tell how this virus will run its course. We have many advantages, though, to help us in the fight. We have the world’s best doctors, nurses, and health-care professionals. As important: we live in a republic that protects the liberty of our citizens and gives every American the freedom to speak, to write, dissent, to sound an alarm—loudly sound an alarm—when we see something that isn’t right and we think we can make it right.
Tragically for himself, for his family, and for the world, Dr. Li Wenliang enjoyed no such freedom, yet he still spoke up to try to save his neighbors and to save the world. For that he was punished and now he has passed.
May he rest in peace, and may his memory inspire other selfless heroes who will speak truth and hold the Chinese Communist Party to account, no matter the cost.