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China shows how web censorship is a public health risk – Red Herring




Last week, China unveiled a new law effectively banning internet users from posting negative content about their country. the Internet governance provisions Information content ecosystem The rule, announced in December 2019, took effect last Sunday. It prohibits acts such as "spreading rumors", "disrupting economic or social order" and "destroying national unity". It encourages positive content.

The vague terms of the law put legal and human rights experts to arms. China Law Translate, a law website, describes it as "extremely vague and easily usable." Others fear that this provision will be used specifically to target those who chronicle the spread of the deadly coronavirus – and how Beijing has managed the epidemic.

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has come under criticism from its own citizens and the international community for its stammering and brutal approach to the COVID-19 epidemic, which is believed to originate in a market. Wuhan food last year. .

The first social media messages announcing the arrival of the virus were suppressed and health professionals were threatened with prison for breaking an unofficial silence. Nearly four dozen sentences have been added to censor's blacklists, including "variation of SARS" and the SARS epidemic in Wuhan. Foreign citizens and VPN providers have reported being harassed by Chinese censors for posting content to family members affected by the virus.

The death of Li Wenliang, a Wuhan doctor whose attempts to spread the word about the virus were suppressed by party officials, sparked widespread outrage at the regime of President Xi Jinping. The censors responded to messages demanding freedom of expression, on platforms like Weibo and WeChat, by closing them quickly.

This reaction almost certainly increased the spread of the virus. It has now recorded nearly 100,000 confirmed cases and more than 3,000 deaths in dozens of countries. Beijing's dependence on disinformation continues despite everything. This week, its main propaganda newspaper, "Seeking Truth," wrote that Xi, the "people's leader," was a "soothing balm" for a world in disarray at the coronavirus. The CCP also blamed the epidemic on its sworn enemy, the United States (whose government response has been widely criticized).

This week's law therefore represents yet another attempt by Xi's subordinates to strangle the truth about a virus that is accelerating worldwide. This will lead to more deaths in China and abroad. "What is important in this case is that this event is more a public health problem than a simple party congress or political events that do not not affect a wider range of people, "said Lotus Ruan, a researcher at The Citizen Lab's University of Toronto. The Globe and Mail.

Thwarting factual information in the midst of an outbreak "limits public awareness and response," concludes the report. Beijing is unlikely to count on continuing propaganda. This can be disastrous not only for millions of people suffering from coronavirus worldwide, but for the future of its hold on power. Dissent has increased since the start of the epidemic.

The samizdat organized on platforms accessible by VPN like GitHub has already become widespread. "The epidemic, in turn, has only exposed the extent of party disease," writes historian Geremie R Barm in New York. Time today. Like the masks it forces its citizens to wear, the stifling of public dissent by Beijing can have little more than a psychosomatic effect on public health and the political force of China.

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