Chinese authorities have arrested at least 500 people since the beginning of 2020 for talking about the coronavirus, a new report claims.
The individuals have been arrested for various reasons surrounding the coronavirus pandemic that range from pointing out long wait times at funeral homes to criticizing the Communist Party, a report by China Digital Times states. China has taken several measures to keep its image intact as the novel coronavirus outbreak began in Wuhan, China.
The report notes that Zhang Xuezhong, 43, was recently arrested for criticizing the Communist Party over the party’s handling of the coronavirus. Zhang posted on WeChat that Communist Party’s actions regarding the virus show that “the government’s long-term tight control society and people has almost completely destroyed the organization and self-help capabilities of Chinese society.”
Zhang isn’t the first outspoken critic of Chinese authorities to be punished. Ren Zhiqiang also went missing after he called Chinese Communist Party Chairman Xi Jinping a power-hungry “clown” for his handling of the coronavirus.
Ren, who was given the nickname “The Cannon” for his online outspokenness, is a wealthy Chinese real estate developer who wrote a scathing essay lambasting Xi. He called out the Communist Party for restricting free speech during the coronavirus outbreak which he said helped its spread.
“Even entertainment shows that have nothing to do with politics are being rigorously scrutinized and censored for political content,” the report noted.
Additionally, Ai Fen, a doctor in China, went missing after saying her boss tried to silence her early warnings about the coronavirus. Given China’s frequent habit of silencing and detaining critics, experts believe it is likely she was detained by Chinese authorities, the New York Post reported.
Topics likely to get Chinese subject arrested include: listing the names of coronavirus victims, questioning the official number of victims and the number of infected, detailing first-hand accounts of what’s happening in Wuhan, and complaining about censorship, Breitbart noted.
Among the topics most likely to get Chinese subjects arrested by the speech police are listed the names of coronavirus victims, posts that dispute the official totals of infected and dead, first-hand accounts of the situation in Wuhan during the worst months of the epidemic, and posts that complain about oppressive censorship.
The latest development comes as China has taken offensive and defensive measures to protect itself. China has eve gone as far as to promote a conspiracy theory that the United States created the coronavirus and planted it in Wuhan, China, where it originated.
China has also been either lying or misrepresenting the number of COVID-19 cases inside its borders, experts have said. The number of cases has suspiciously stayed around 80,000 since January — even though the virus originated in China — while countries from around the world have seen the number of cases in their border skyrocket.
That skepticism was raised when China changed its reporting of cases from Wuhan, showing 50 percent more cases than originally reported.
The Communist government also punished Chinese doctors who blew the whistle on the virus before it infected the rest of the world. One of those doctors also reportedly died from COVID-19.
More than 4.8 million people have been infected by the deadly virus worldwide and there have been more than 321,000 deaths, according to Johns Hopkins’ latest tracking data.