China’s Coronavirus Cover-Up

Since the first confirmed case of coronavirus in Wuhan, the Chinese government engaged in a misinformation campaign and tried to suppress the truth about the coronavirus. As we fight this invisible enemy, we must hold the Chinese government accountable for its lies, deceit and inaction, which allowed the virus to spread rapidly and delayed the international response.

In mid-December 2019, some of the first known patients infected with the new coronavirus disease (COVID-19) were hospitalized. By late December, labs in China confirmed there was a new coronavirus spreading in Wuhan, and Chinese health care workers began sharing information about the new disease with one another. Rather than working to stop the virus, on January 1, the Chinese government detained eight doctors who previously shared information, and lab officials ordered labs to stop testing and to destroy existing virus samples. On January 6, the Trump administration began offering to send a team of disease experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help contain the virus, but the Chinese government consistently blocked them from entering the country.

The Chinese government then prohibited state media from reporting on the spread of the virus and even misled the public on basic information about the virus. They claimed through most of January there was no human-to-human transmission of the virus – a claim echoed in a World Health Organization (WHO) tweet on January 14. We now know, of course, that this was yet another effort to cover up the truth about coronavirus.

The Chinese government continued to falsely insist for weeks that the virus was under control. The government even claimed there were no new cases diagnosed in Wuhan during the week of January 11 to 17 when an important Chinese Communist Party (CCP) meeting took place in Wuhan. Forgive me if I seem cynical, but it is absurd to think the virus decided to take a break from infecting people just because the city was hosting an important political event.

Less than a week later, the Chinese government finally accepted reality and quarantined the city of Wuhan. By this time, however, an estimated five million people already left. It was too little, too late. 

Meanwhile, the Chinese media continued to issue misinformation about the virus and praise the government’s response. If the Chinese government spent as much effort trying to stop the virus as it did trying to stop the spread of the truth, we could have reacted much more quickly to the virus and saved lives across the globe – including in our own country – and in China.  Make no mistake: the Chinese people are victims of the Chinese government’s lies and deceit, and even to this day China continues to intentionally underreport its coronavirus infection and death rates.

As the virus spread across the globe, the Chinese government embarked on a mission to deflect blame for the virus. It continues to insist that its response to the virus was transparent and effective, despite clear and obvious evidence to the contrary. To make matters worse, they are also peddling conspiracy theories about the origins of the virus, including that it originated in America. Here is the truth: the virus originated in Wuhan, China, and its spread was made worse by the lies and cover-ups of the CCP. And the lies are ongoing: officially, 4,643 people died of coronavirus in China, but consider that at just two funeral homes in Wuhan, witnesses observed approximately 2,500 and 3,500 urns being delivered last month – and there are six other funeral homes in Wuhan. This is just more bogus information out of the Chinese.

As the international community considers steps to hold China accountable, we must also address the WHO’s failure to prevent Chinese misinformation. The WHO consistently cowed to China during this crisis and accepted the Chinese government’s lies repeatedly, and WHO Director-General Tedros even praised China for its response to the coronavirus. On April 14, President Trump announced that the U.S. will halt funding to the WHO while his administration reviews the organization’s response to the coronavirus. The WHO response to the virus is severely lacking, and I support the president’s review. Our country cannot support an organization whose leadership allows China to lie and obfuscate with no consequences. 

China’s botched response allowed the virus to spread, and its lies and suppression of truth prevented adequate international preparation for the virus. As Congress considers next steps in our efforts to fight the virus, I will work to hold China accountable for its actions.