Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Covid-19 Series: Censorship of News Reports Critical of the Government's Response

It is not possible to list here all of the news articles that were censored from January to April 2020. The censorship of three articles published by China's more reputable state sponsored media outlets is described in detail below. Approximately 20 more examples are listed at the bottom of this post.

Caixin Cover Story 

Title: They Fought the Battle to the End [他们打满全场]
Date Published: April 10, 2020
Date Censored: April 11 or 12, 2020
Publisher: 财新周刊
Original URL: http://weekly.caixin.com/2020-04-10/101540932.html
Archived URL:  https://web.archive.org/web/20200411204707/http://weekly.caixin.com/2020-04-10/101540932.html
Cover: http://weekly.caixin.com/2020/cw900/

Evidence Of Censorship: The screenshots on the left and right below show that for the issues immediately preceding and following the April 13 issue, Caixin featured links to its cover story (outlined in blue). The screenshot in the middle shows that for the April 13 issue, Caixin does not provide any link to its cover story (outlined in red).

In addition, the screenshot on the left below shows a Google cache of Caxin's cover story index page as it appeared on April 11, 2020, with the "They Fought the Battle to the End [他们打满全场]" featured at the top (outlined in blue). The screenshot on the right shows the same page as it appeared on April 13, 2020, and that story has been removed.

Li Yirong told Caixin reporters that the National Key Laboratory of Virology of Wuhan University and the research team of Zhongnan Hospital did not upload the whole genome sequence of the new coronavirus to GISAID until January 23. "Because the relevant departments do not allow private pathogenic testing, and we were not allowed to publish relevant pathogen testing or experimental results without authorization, we were very cautious in releasing information.

China Newsweek Cover Story


Title: The Regret of Wuhan: How China Missed the Critical Window for Controlling the Coronavirus Outbreak [武汉之憾:黄金防控期是如何错过的]
Date Published: Online version was published on February 5, 2020. Magazine was dated February 10, 2020.
Date Censored: Some time before February 9, 2020.
Original URL: https://news.sina.com.cn/c/2020-02-05/doc-iimxyqvz0431055.shtml | https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/utrKt3oYGdIsjKOcyzlBmQ
Archived URL: https://web.archive.org/web/20200205115627/https://news.sina.com.cn/c/2020-02-05/doc-iimxyqvz0431055.shtml | https://archive.li/SPwN3/image
Cover: https://finance.sina.cn/2020-02-05/detail-iimxyqvz0352015.d.html
Translation: https://chinachange.org/2020/02/09/the-regret-of-wuhan-how-china-missed-the-critical-window-for-controlling-the-coronavirus-outbreak/
Evidence of Censorship: The screenshot on the left below shows a Google cache version of the article as it appeared on February 5, 2020. The screenshot on the right shows the same URL as it appeared on February 9, 2020.

In addition, the screenshot below shows that a search on China Newsweek's search engine for the title of the article returns no results.

Finally, the screenshot on the left below shows an archived version of the article as it appeared on February 5, 2020. The screenshot on the right shows the same URL as it appeared on December 17, 2020.


Lin Yu, a doctor at the Union Hospital, affiliated with Huazhong University of Science and Technology’s Tongji Medical School described his recollections in an interview with China News Weekly. He said that at the beginning of the outbreak, the Wuhan municipal government’s policy for dealing with the problem was “cold handling”. The hospital where Lin worked issued a notice saying that barring explicit permission from the work unit, no one was allowed to discuss the sickness using their personal communication channels or give interviews with the media. In addition to the clinical system, information was also strictly controlled at the hospital infection-control department and at the CDC. “You weren’t allowed to say anything all.” The only thing the doctor could do was repeatedly exhort those seeking treatment: “wear masks, you must buy and wear masks.” They also made loaded jokes, like “avoid Huanan Seafood Market, the products there aren’t fresh.”


Caijing WeChat Post

Title: People Outside the Statistics: Did They Die of “Ordinary Pneumonia”? [统计数字之外的人:他们死于“普通肺炎”?]
Date Published: February 1, 2020
Date Censored: February 2, 2020
Publisher: 财经杂志 (Official WeChat Public Account)
Original URL: https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/OQGVZlrJWID9Gn4A_T5u_g
Archived URL: https://web.archive.org/web/20200201152342/https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/OQGVZlrJWID9Gn4A_T5u_g
Translation: https://github.com/memoryhonest/nCovMemory-en/blob/master/docs/2020-02-01/excluded_from_the_statistics.md
Evidence Of Censorship: The screenshot on the left below shows the post as it appeared on the morning of February 2, 2020. The  screenshot on the right below shows the post as it appeared on the afternoon of February 2, 2020 - that text reads "Unable to view this content because it violates regulations. This content was reported and determined to be in violation of the Provisions on the Administration of Internet User Public Account Information Services. View Details" [此内容因违规无法查看. 接相关投诉,此内容违反《互联网用户公众帐号信息服务管理规定》,查看详细内容].

The screenshot below shows the English language version of that censorship notice.


On January 26, 2020, Liu Mei's family received a cremation notice. Her mother-in-law, a 73-year-old woman, had been at home when she stopped breathing, and died after being sent to the hospital after resuscitation attempts had failed.
Liu Mei told "Caijing" reporters that the elderly woman had developed symptoms of the suspected new coronavirus pneumonia on January 21. After examination at the Wuhan No. 4 Hospital, the diagnosis showed that her lungs were highly infected. However, the elderly woman was moved to several hospitals and was not admitted to any of them, so she could only isolate herself at home until she became critically ill.
After the elderly woman was taken away by the ambulance her family never saw her again. The last thing they received was a cremation notice, which listed the cause of death of the elderly woman as viral pneumonia. However, according to family members, the death of the elderly woman was not counted in the number of confirmed deaths from novel coronavirus pneumonia because until her death, she was not eligible for hospitalization and was not diagnosed with novel coronavirus pneumonia, and could only be counted as having the misfortune to die from "common pneumonia."
The elderly woman passed away quickly, with no time for proper arrangements to be made or for family members to see her off. Her ashes remain in the funeral home.
The members of Liu Mei's family whose relative died without treatment are not alone. "Caijing" reporters have conducted several investigations and have learned that, although the number of outpatients exhibiting fevers in major designated hospitals in Wuhan has declined compared with the time when the city was "closed" on January 23, and a third batch of designated hospital has been opened, the lack of hospital beds has not been fully alleviated. While the number of confirmed and suspected cases has risen, there are still many lives hanging by a thread outside the epidemic statistics.
A department director of a designated hospital told a "Caijing" reporter that there were about 120 patients with fever a day in the outpatient clinic of the hospital in the past two days, of which about 80 had lung infections, but only 5 may were eventually admitted to hospital.


Additional Examples of Articles That Were Censored or Deleted

Caijing [财经]

Workers at Huoshenshan Wanted to Return Home: At Least Nine People Were Confirmed Infected, Their Livelihoods at Risk [火神山工人想回家:至少9人确诊,生计暂难为继 ]
Original URL: https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/FfB6QgnxjCBAoD4lPEDrIQ
Archived Version: http://archive.today/jP0mK | https://web.archive.org/web/20200318150008/https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/FfB6QgnxjCBAoD4lPEDrIQ

In Order to Meet Resumption Quotas, Some Zhejiang Enterprises are Exaggerate Utility Usage [为达标复工率,浙江部分企业注水用电量]
Original URL: https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/G2EtbaG_bLTpWlNThuNUrw
Archived Version: http://archive.ph/gYf0F

Exclusive Interview With Second Batch of Experts Deployed by the Ministry of Health: Why Have We Not Seen Person-to-Person Transmission? [专访卫健委派武汉第二批专家:为何没发现人传人?]
Original URL: https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/jY9NEElLmLckv4k7Workog
Archived Version: http://archive.today/6MyfO

Discriminated Against, Evicted, and Fired, Hubei Mirgrant Workers Live in Abandoned Buildings in Shenzhen [受歧视遭退租被辞工,湖北籍农民工流落深圳烂尾楼]
Original URL: https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/4ZFzdJXlYUvNiFzpy7DUrA
Archived Version: http://archive.today/Elyw2

Gao Fu Responds to the Controversy: I'm Not Online Arguing Because I'm Researching a Cunning Virus [高福回应争议:不能去网络吵架,在研究狡猾病毒]
Original URL: https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/RBjSumb2wh7sRoCRaNyS1Q
Archived Version: http://archive.today/XCiq9

Three Barriers Those Suspected of Beijing Infected in Wuhan Must Surmount to Get a Hospital Room [武汉疑似患者通往病房的三道难关]
Original URL: https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/emhJaE4O4ElsCntcJDJLWw
Archived Version: http://archive.today/GbY4J

Caixin [财新]

Pneumonia Diary | March 19: The Result of the Investigation into Li Wenliang is Announced, The Public Cries for More Action Against Those Responsible [肺炎日记|3月19日:李文亮调查结果公布,舆论呼吁继续追责]
Original URL: http://www.caixin.com/2020-03-20/101531330.html
Archived Version: http://archive.ph/wTJ4j

Suspicions Many Retested Positive: The Full Story of the Deaths of People Discharged from the Hospital After Recovering from the Novel Coronavirus [复阳疑云:新冠患者出院后死亡事件始末]
Original URL: http://www.caixin.com/2020-03-05/101524370.html
Archived Version: http://archive.ph/pJNx6

Lights, Air, and Machinery Turned on to "Meet Quotas" - How Reliable are the Country's Work Resumption Numbers [开灯开空调开机器“冲指标” 全国复工数据有多少水分]
Original URL: http://companies.caixin.com/2020-03-03/101523137.html
Archived Version: https://web.archive.org/web/20200303162758/http://companies.caixin.com/2020-03-03/101523137.html

Tracing Gene Sequencing of the Novel Coronavirus: When Did the Alarm Sound [新冠病毒基因测序溯源:警报是何时拉响的]
Original URL: http://china.caixin.com/2020-02-26/101520972.html
Archived Version: https://archive.li/YylMt

Voices from the Front Line Physicians: We Need Help from the International Medical Community [来自前线医生的声音:请国际同行支援我们]
Original URL: http://www.caixin.com/2020-02-26/101520806.html
Archived Version: http://archive.is/zrtaK

Four Members of a Hubei Movie Theater Workers Family Died One After Another: Attention Needs to Be Paid to Families With High Novel Coronavirus Mortality Rates [湖北电影厂员工一家四口接连去世 新冠家庭死亡率高企需关注]
Original URL: http://www.caixin.com/2020-02-16/101516206.html
Archived Version: http://archive.is/iZ7PK

Four Members of a Hubei Movie Theater Workers Family Died One After Another: Liu Fan and Chang Kai are Siblings (Updated) [湖北电影厂员工一家四口接连去世 柳帆常凯实为姐弟(更新)]
Original URL: https://china.caixin.com/2020-02-18/101516203.html
Archived Version: https://archive.li/syczr

Southern Group [南方周末/南方人物周刊]

Family Members of the Deceased in Wuhan: Waiting to Receive Ashes, Waiting for a Way to Express Grief [武汉逝者家属:等待领取骨灰,等待表达悲痛的方式]
Original URL: https://www.infzm.com/contents/179409
Archived Version: http://archive.vn/tepX8

From Discovery to Shutdown, Frontline Medical Workers in Wuhan on Why the Epidemic Broke Out [从发现到封城,武汉一线医护复盘疫情为何爆发]
Original URL: https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/tKNwe5bY-rCqhl-juJWqrg
Archived Version: https://archive.vn/T5wcv

Over 160 Hospital Around the Country Plea to the Public for Help, Why is there not Enough Medical Resources and Equipment ? [全国160余家医院向社会求援,医疗物资储备为何不足?]
Original URL: https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/SEeoUXwzcfuikvwz46zvDA
Archived Version: http://archive.is/IAgnb

Sanlian Weekly [三联生活周刊]

From the Scene: Huoshenshan Opens: Who Should the Hospital Beds be Reserved For? [现场:火神山开通:病床该留给谁?]
Original URL: https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/07-eyh4PxUtXf2F_WHpApQ
Archived Version: https://web.archive.org/web/20200204055934/https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/07-eyh4PxUtXf2F_WHpApQ

Global Times [环球时报]

Medical Workers from Wuhan Central Hospital Confess their True Feelings: The Epidemic is Like Looking in a Demon Mirror [武汉市中心医院医护人员吐真情:疫情是面照妖镜]
Original URL: https://mp.weixin.qq.com/s/tBKwTE1FPN_uO_Vp2Zm_0w
Archived Version: https://archive.li/2isMJ

Wednesday, February 17, 2021

COVID-19 Series: People Silenced and Punished by the Chinese Government

1. Individuals Detained for Sharing Information Online About the  COVID-19 Outbreak

 Throughout January 2020 China's government continued to punish people for sharing information online about COVID-19. Here are some examples:

Police Report
Recently, during the nationwide fight against the novel coronavirus pneumonia epidemic, Wang Doe, Liu Doe, and Wang Doe #3 fabricated and spread rumors on the Internet and were subjected to administrative detention by the police.

On January 23, Wang Doe (female, 35 years old, from Shapingba District) spread rumors in a friends  circle that "Chongqing Shapingba, Jiangbei District, and Yubei District has imposed controls." On the same day, Liu Doe (male, 26 years old, from Tongliang District) spread a rumor that "Panxi and Shimahe areas in Jiangbei have been closed off by the police" in a WeChat group. An investigation found that Wang Doe and Liu Doe fabricated and spread rumors based on hearsay in order to attract people's attention, and created panic. They were subjected to administrative detention by the Nan'an and Jiangbei police, respectively. On January 24, Wang Doe #3 (female, 27 years old, from Shapingba District) saw information related to government departments' prevention and handling of the epidemic on the Internet, and fabricated and spread rumors out of context to attract people's attention, causing a pernicious influence. She was subjected to administrative detention by the Yongchuan police.

The police reiterated that the Internet is not a place outside the law, and public security agencies will investigate and deal with illegal activities involving fabricating and spreading rumors and disrupting public order. It is hoped that the majority of Internet users will not believe or spread rumors, jointly maintain a good online environment, and unite and fight the epidemic together.

Source: Screenshot of the Chongqing Public Security official Weibo Account from "Three people spread rumors of the epidemic and were administratively detained by Chongqing police" [3人散布疫情谣言,被重庆警方行政拘留], January 25, 2020, https://www.guancha.cn/politics/2020_01_25_533127.shtml.

Information Bulletin
On November 23, 110 received a police report saying that someone had posted information in a WeChat group to deliberately exaggerate the number of new coronavirus pneumonia infections in the country and this city. On January 24, the Jinnan Branch of the Public Security Bureau apprehended the suspect Gao Doe (female, 34 years old, Tianjin). Gao confessed to fabricating information and spreading it in WeChat groups. Now Gao has been subjected to five days administrative detention in accordance with the law. 
The public security agency reiterated that the Internet is not a place outside the law, and every citizen is responsible for their speech and must abide by national laws and regulations. Public security organs will resolutely investigate and punish those who openly spread rumors. Internet users are requested not to believe in or spread rumors, and work together to keep cyberspace  clean.
January 24, 2020

Source: Screenshot of the Tianjin Public Security Bureau WeChat Public Account from "Woman who spread false information about new pneumonia on the Internet was administratively detained for 5 days" [女子在网络上散布新型肺炎不实信息 被行政拘留5日], January 25, 2020, https://m.chinanews.com/wap/detail/zw/gn/2020/01-25/9069293.shtml.

2. Doctor Li Wenliang [李文亮]

Source: Baidu search result on the day Dr. Li Wenliang died.

On December 31, 2019, the Hubei government posted the following announcement on its website (http://www.hubei.gov.cn/zxjy/rdhy/201912/t20191231_1822539.shtml):

Wuhan Municipal Health Commission Notice on the Pneumonia Outbreak: Initially Identified as Viral Pneumonia, No Human-to-Human Transmission

Release time: 2019-12-31 14:09 Source: Wuhan Municipal Health Commission

Recently, some medical institutions found that many cases of pneumonia were connected to the South China Seafood Market. After receiving reports, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission immediately carried out case searches and retrospective investigations related to South China Seafood Market in the city’s medical and health institutions. Twenty-seven cases have been found, of which 7 are in serious condition, and the remaining cases are in stable and controllable condition, and 2 cases are expected to be discharged in the near future. The clinical manifestations of the cases were mainly fever, a few patients had difficulty breathing, and chest radiographs showed infiltrating foci of both lungs. At present, all cases have been treated in isolation, follow-up investigation and medical observation of close contacts are underway, and hygienic investigation and environmental sanitation treatment of the South China Seafood Market is underway.

Wuhan City organized consultations with clinical medicine, epidemiology, and virology experts from Tongji Hospital, the Provincial Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the Wuhan Institute of Virology,the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the Wuhan Infectious Disease Hospital, and the Wuhan Center for Disease Control and Prevention. So far, no obvious person-to-person transmission has been found in the investigation, and no medical staff infection has been found. At present, the detection of the pathogen and the investigation of the cause of infection are underway.

Viral pneumonia is more common in winter and spring, and the spread can be sporadic or explosive. The main clinical manifestations are fever, body aches, a small number of breathing difficulties, and lung infiltration. Viral pneumonia is related to the virulence of the virus, the route of infection, and the age and immune status of the host. Viruses that cause viral pneumonia are influenza viruses. The others are parainfluenza viruses, cytomegaloviruses, adenoviruses, rhinoviruses, and coronaviruses. The diagnosis depends on pathogenic tests, including virus isolation, serological tests, and virus antigen and nucleic acid tests. The disease is preventable and controllable, for prevention maintain indoor air circulation, avoid closed public places and crowded places with poor air circulation, and wear masks when going out. Clinically, symptomatic treatment is the main treatment, and bed rest is required. If you have the above symptoms, especially if the fever persists, you should go to a medical institution in a timely manner. (Wuhan Municipal Health Commission)  

It appears there were two versions of this notice posted on the Hubei government website. The other version, posted at http://wjw.hubei.gov.cn/fbjd/dtyw/201912/t20191231_1822343.shtml, was no longer available as of December 8, 2020. That version was identical to the one shown above, with the following exceptions:
  • It was posted at 13:38 on December 31, 2019.
  • The title was "Wuhan Municipal Health Commission Notice Regarding the Status of Our City's Ongoing Pneumonia Outbreak." [武汉市卫健委关于当前我市肺炎疫情的情况通报]
  • The reference to the "Wuhan Municipal Health Commission" in the second sentence was the "Municipal Health Commission."
Source: CCTV News [ 央视新闻] official Weibo, December 31, 2019, https://m.weibo.cn/status/4455560046857254

At 5:38 pm on January 1, 2020, the Wuhan Public Security Bureau published the following on its official Sina Weibo:

[8 rumor spreaders were investigated and dealt with in accordance with the law] Recently, some medical institutions in our city found that they had received multiple cases of pneumonia, and the Municipal Health Commission issued a report on this. However, some Internet users published and forwarded false information on the Internet without verification, causing adverse social effects. After investigation and verification, the public security agencies summoned eight individual who violated the law and dealt with them in accordance with the law. The police reminds everyone that the Internet is not a place outside the law. Publishing information and speech on the Internet should comply with laws and regulations. The police will, in accordance with the law, investigate and deal with illegal acts of fabricating, publishing, and spreading rumors and disrupting social order, and will not tolerate them. It is hoped that the majority of Internet users will abide by relevant laws and regulations, and will not fabricate rumors, believe rumors, or spread rumors, and will build a harmonious and clean cyberspace together.

Source: David Paulk, Head of News at China's state sponsored media outlet SixthTone, https://twitter.com/davidpaulk/status/1212717577614442498

 At 8:11 pm the same day the Hubei government reposted that information on their website.

At 11:40 am on January 2, 2020, China's official state television news station broadcast this information nationwide.

Later that evening, government sponsored television news outlets in various provinces featured the story as well.

At 10:09 pm on January 02, 2020, China's state sponsored media outlet SixthTone published an English language report titled "8 Accused of ‘Spreading Rumors’ Amid Wuhan Pneumonia Outbreak." According to that report: 

When Sixth Tone called the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission on Thursday, a staff member said she did not know when the first infections were reported. Staff at the provincial and municipal disease control centers said it was “inconvenient” to comment. Several users on microblogging platform Weibo responded angrily in the comments section under the police notice. 'People spread rumors precisely because the authorities didn’t respond in a timely manner — so how can we be blamed?' one user wrote. 'Don’t I have the right to know the truth, be afraid, and try to save myself?'

In a series of tweets between January 2 and January 6, David Paulk, head of news at SixthTone, reported that that story had been "pulled" shortly after it was published.
Source: https://twitter.com/davidpaulk/status/1212720708339433480

At 10:19 am on January 31, 2020, David Paulk, head of news at SixthTone, tweeted that that article had in fact been "censored."

Source: https://twitter.com/davidpaulk/status/1223068148183728129
That article originally appeared at http://www.sixthtone.com/news/1005033/8-accused-of-spreading-rumors-amid-wuhan-pneumonia-outbreak. It was archived by the Internet Archive here: https://web.archive.org/web/20200103063023/http://www.sixthtone.com/news/1005033/8-accused-of-spreading-rumors-amid-wuhan-pneumonia-outbreak

At 12:14 pm on January 31, 2020, Dr. Li Wenliang posted the following on his personal Sina Weibo (xiaolwl - https://m.weibo.cn/detail/4466768535861595):

Hello everyone, I am Li Wenliang, an ophthalmologist at Wuhan Central Hospital. On December 30th, I saw a patient's test report that detected a high-confidence positive indicator of the SARS coronavirus. In order to remind my classmates to pay attention and protect themselves, and because my classmates are also clinicians, I posted news stating that "7 cases of SARS were confirmed" in a [WeChat] group. After the news was sent, on January 3rd, the Public Security Bureau found me and I signed a letter of reprimand. I have been working normally since then. After receiving patients with novel coronavirus pneumonia, I started to have cough symptoms on January 10, fever on the 11th, and was hospitalized on the 12th. At that time, I was still thinking about why it was reports were still saying that there was no human-to-human transmission, and there was no infection among medical workers. Later, I was admitted to the ICU. I had a nucleic acid test previously, but the results never came out. After undergoing treatment, I was tested again recently, and my nucleic acid was negative, but I still have difficulty breathing and cannot be active. My parents are also in the hospital. In the ward, I also saw the support and encouragement from many Internet users, and my mood became somewhat lighter. Thanks for everyone's support. I want to clarify here that I have not had my license revoked. Please rest assured that I will actively cooperate with the treatment and strive to be discharged early! Wuhan, Wuhan Central Hospital.

 那时候我还在想通报怎么还在说没有人传人,没有医护感染,后来住进了ICU,之前做了一次核酸检测,但一直没出结果。经过治疗最近又进行一次检测,我的核酸显示为阴性了,但目前仍然呼吸困难,无法活动。我的父母也在住院中。在病房里,我也看到很多网友对我的支持和鼓励,我的心情也会轻松一些,谢谢大家的支持。在此我想特别澄清,我没有被吊销执照,请大家放心,我一定积极配合治疗,争取早日出院! 武汉·武汉市中心医院

His post included two photos of the documents referred to in his post - the medical report, and the reprimand letter.

 The reprimand letter read as follows:

Zhongnan Precinct, Public Security Bureau of Wuchang, Wuhan

Letter of Reprimand

Wu Public (Central) No. (20200103)

Reprimandee    Li Wenliang_Gender Male_Birth Year and Month [OBSCURED IN ORIGINAL]
Current Address (Household Registration Location) Wuhan [OBSCURED IN ORIGINAL]
Work Unit Wuhan Central Hospital

Illegal Act(s) (Time, Location, Participants, Number of Participants, Issues Reported, Consequences, etc.) On December 30, 2019, published false statements about 7 cases of SARS confirmed in the South China Fruit and Seafood Market in the WeChat group "[OBSCURED IN ORIGINAL]."

You are hereby issued a warning and reprimand in accordance with the law with respect to the illegality of your untruthful remarks on the Internet. Your behavior seriously disrupted social order. Your behavior has exceeded the boundaries of what is legally permitted and violated the relevant provisions of the Public Security Administrative Punishments Law of the People's Republic of China. This was an illegal act!

The public security agency hopes that you will actively cooperate in this matter, obey the advice of the Civil Police, and stop the illegal activities to date. Can you do it?

Answer: Yes

We hope you will calm down and reflect carefully, and we solemnly admonish you: If you adhere stubbornly to your own opinions, refuse to repent, and continue to engage in illegal activities, you will be punished by the law! Do you understand what is being said?

Response: Understand

Reprimandee: Li Wenliang
January 3, 2020

Work Unit: [Seal of the Zhongnan Precinct, Public Security Bureau of Wuchang, Wuhan]
武汉市公安局 武昌分局 中南路街派出所



被训诫人            李文亮_性别男_出身年月[OBSCURED IN ORIGINAL]

身份证号各类及号码     [OBSCURED IN ORIGINAL]

 现住址(戶籍所在地)         武汉市[OBSCURED IN ORIGINAL]

工作单位            武汉市中心医院

违法行为(时间、地点、参与人、人数、反映何问题、后果等)          2019年12月30日在微信群"[OBSCURED IN ORIGINAL]"发表有关华南水果海鲜市场确诊7例SARS 的不属实的言论。



答: 能


答: 明白

被训诫人:  李文亮



工作单位: [武汉市公安局 武昌分局 中南路街派出所]
On January 27, 2020, the state sponsored new outlet "The Paper" [澎湃新闻] published an article titled "A doctor in Wuhan was reprimanded for sending false information about the epidemic to a group, and was isolated after 11 days after being infected" [武汉一医生疑群内发不实疫情信息被训诫,11天后感染被隔离]. The screenshot on the left shows the article as it was archived by the Internet Archive on January 27, 2020. The screenshot on the right was taken on January 28, 2020, and shows that that URL was displaying a message saying "This article has been taken down." 

In an interview with Caixin, Li Wenliang had this to say about the reprimand:

Li Wenliang: It was the same night (December 31) at 1:30 in the morning when the screenshot was released. The Wuhan Health Commission had a meeting overnight. I was mainly called in by the leaders of our hospital to ask about the situation. After I went to work at dawn, I was interviewed by the Hospital Supervision Department again. I still asked about my situation, the source of the news, and whether I realized my mistake. After all that I didn't expect the police would come looking for me. On January 3, they called me to go to the police station to sign the "Letter of Reprimand". I had never dealt with the police before. I was also very worried. If I didn’t sign, I was afraid that I would not allowed to leave. I went through the process and signed it. I didn't tell my family about it. At that time, there was a lot of pressure, and I was worried about punishment by the hospital, which would affect my future job prospects. Later, a classmate of mine found out and helped introduce me to a journalist. I talked with the journalist directly about the situation.
Caixin Reporter: The police made their first report on January 1, saying that eight rumormongerss had been summoned, and you were called to the police station on January 3? Does this mean that you were  one of those eight people being dealt with?
Li Wenliang: This is not clear. I am not sure. What you said is possible. I just want to get well soon.
Caixin Reporter: The "Letter of Reprimand" given to you by the police you spread false statements on the Internet. At that time, some people believed you were spreading rumors. How do you see it?
Li Wenliang: I don't think it was rumormongering, because the report clearly stated it was SARS. And I just wanted to remind my classmates to pay attention, and I had no desire to cause a panic. . . .
Caixin Reporter: Since you don't think it was rumormongering, have you ever thought about going through judicial channels to ask for an explanation?
Li Wenliang: No, the judicial system may be very troublesome. I don't want to make trouble with the Public Security Bureau. I am afraid of trouble. Everyone knows that the truth is most important. . . .
Caixin Reporter: On January 28, the Supreme Court issued a commentary on the official account on whether the punishment of eight “rumormongers” in Wuhan was appropriate. You may be among these eight people. What thoughts did you have when you saw it?
Li Wenliang: After reading the Supreme Court's article, I felt greatly relieved and was not too worried about what the hospital would do. I think that a healthy society should not have only one voice, and I don't agree that public power power should be used to interfere excessively.
李文亮:我觉得不算造谣,因为报告写得清清楚楚是SARS。而且我只是想提醒同学注意,并不想引起恐慌. . . 。
李文亮:没有,司法途径恐怕很麻烦,我不想跟公安局找麻烦,我很怕麻烦。大家知道真相更重要,平反对我而言不那么重要了,公道自在人心。. . . .

See, "Novel Coronavirus Pneumonia 'Whistleblower' Li Wenliang: 'Truth is Most Important'" [新冠肺炎“吹哨人”李文亮:真相最重要], Caixin, February 7, 2020, http://china.caixin.com/2020-02-07/101509761.html
In an interview with the New York Times, Li Wenliang had this to say about the reprimand:
Dr. Li: If the officials had disclosed information about the epidemic earlier, I think it would have been a lot better. There should be more openness and transparency.

NYT: How did you feel when the police accused you of spreading rumors?

Dr. Li: The police believed this virus was not confirmed to be SARS. They believed I was spreading rumors. They asked me to acknowledge that I was at fault. I felt I was being wronged, but I had to accept it. Obviously I had been acting out of good will. I felt very sad seeing so many people losing their loved ones.
See,  "He Warned of Coronavirus. Here’s What He Told Us Before He Died" [对话疫情“吹哨人”:李文亮医生生前采访实录], New York Times, February 7, 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/07/world/asia/Li-Wenliang-china-coronavirus.html, https://cn.nytimes.com/china/20200208/li-wenliang-china-coronavirus.
At 12:57 am on February 7, 2020, the state sponsored Global Times tweeted that Li Wenliang was under emergency treatment.
Source: https://twitter.com/globaltimesnews/status/1225463450354110466

Both of the screenshots below were taken around 1:20 am on February 7, 2020. The screenshot on the left shows that a search for "political emergency treatment" [政治性抢救] returned results that included the hashtag "Li Wenliang passed away" [李文良去世]. The screenshot on the right shows that a search for "Li Wenliang political emergency treatment" [李文良 政治性抢救] returned no results.

At 2:58 am on February 7, 2020 the Wuhan Health Commission published an announcement online that Li Wenliang had passed away. 

The screenshot below was taken at 11:16 am on February 7, and shows the hashtag "Li Wenliang passed away" [李文良去世] was at #21 on Sina Weibo's trending keywords list.

This screenshot shows Baidu search results for Li Wenliang's phrase "a healthy society should not have only one voice" [一个健康的社会不该只有一种声音] on February 8, 2020. The top result is a post on Baidu's on PostBar [贴吧] social media platform. 

The screenshot on the left below was taken on February 8, 2020, and shows that first Baidu search result as it appeared at that time. The screenshot on the right below was taken on February 9, 2020, and shows the same URL now displays a notice saying "Very sorry, this post has been deleted."

The screenshot on the left below shows Baidu search results for "Li Wenliang" as they appeared on February 9, 2020. The screenshot on the right shows the search results for "Li Wenliang" as they appeared on February 15, 2020. The search results outlined in red are identical, and appeared to have remained unchanged throughout that period. The search results were all from sources under the direct control of the central government in Beijing.

The screenshot on the left below shows the search results for "Li Wenliang" as they appeared on February 14, 2020. The screenshot on the right below shows the search results for "Li Wenliang" as they appeared on Qihoo on the same day. Search results outlined in the same came are from the same source.

On March 4, 2020, Liu Xiaoming, the Chinese ambassador to the United Kingdom, posted the following on his Twitter account regarding Li Wenliang: "China has made efforts to ensure transparency. We try our best to be open and responsible, which is praised by WHO. There’s no such a thing as China cracking down on people who gave away information."
On March 11, 2020, the state sponsored media outlet Caixin published a report in English that stated:
A Central Hospital department head blamed authorities for endangering lives by spreading false information."The false information released by the relevant departments — claiming the disease was controllable and would not spread from human-to-human — left hundreds of doctors and nurses in the dark, doing all they could to treat patients without knowing about the epidemic," the department head told Caixin. "And even when they fell ill, they could not report it. They could not alert their colleagues and the public in time despite their sacrifice. This is the most painful loss and lesson." 

See: "Update: Wuhan Doctors Say Colleagues Died in Vain Amid Official Cover-Up," Caixin, March 11, 2020, https://www.caixinglobal.com/2020-03-11/wuhan-doctors-say-colleagues-died-in-vain-amid-official-coverup-101526650.html.

3. Lawyer Chen Qiushi [陳秋實]

Chen Qiushi obtain his PRC law license in 2016 and was an attorney at the LongAn Law Firm in Beijing (隆安律师事务所).

Archived version of Chen Qiushi's bio from his law firm's website. Source: https://web.archive.org/web/20190904025810/http://www.longanlaw.com/professionals/9337.html/
At 12:34 am on January 25, 2020, Chen Qiushi posted on Twitter that he was in Wuhan, and included a video of him saying: "I will use my lens to personally witness and record all the real situations that happen during this disaster prevention and quarantine process in Wuhan" [我会用我的镜头来亲自见证和记录武汉这次防灾检疫过程中所有发生的真实情况]. 
Over the next several days Chen Qiushi posted images and videos of what was happening in Wuhan. For example, he posted this at 6:23 pm on February 4, 2020:
We have collected enough evidence to prove that Wuhan's medical care, first aid, and funeral services have been overloaded. In the future, I will not shoot and track death and cremation information. Because everyone should already have passed judgment in their hearts, I really can't bear to disturb the deceased again and again. Please rest in peace~~
On February 7, 2020 a video titled "[Posted Seeking Help on Behalf of Others] Chen Qiushi's mother calls on Wuhan netizens to find Qiushi's whereabouts! We lost contact with citizen reporter Chen Qiushi after he went to Fangcang Hospital" [【求助代发】陈秋实妈妈呼吁武汉网友寻找秋实下落!公民记者陈秋实去方舱医院后失联] was posted on Chen Qiushi's Youtube channel.

Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n7MVfqVM0Ag

These screenshots show that on February 9, 2020, Baidu began censoring search results for "Lawyer Chen Qiushi" [陈秋实律师]. The screenshot on the left was taken on the morning of February 9, and shows Baidu returned 140,000 results. The screenshot on the right was taken in the evening of the same day, and shows Baidu only returning 28 search results.


4. Beijing University Legal Scholar He Weifang [贺卫方]

Source: https://business.sohu.com/s2004/zhishifenzi50.shtml - Image shows He Weifang (bottom right hand image) listed as one of "50 Public Intellectuals Who Influence China" [ 影响中国的公共知识分子50人] published in the September 2004 edition of the Southern People Weekly [南方人物周刊]
On February 17, 2020, images of a hand-written note signed by He Weifang, Director of Peking University Judicial Research Center, began appearing on social media platforms and websites in China. Here are the images.

The title of the note was "Can This Heavy Toll Be Exchanged for Freedom of the Press?"[惨重的代价能否换来新闻自由?]. Some excerpts:
He [Xi Jinping] first issued verbal instructions on January 7 and written instructions on January 20, and he issued "clear demands" on January 22. On the first day of the first lunar month of the Gengzi year, that is on January 25, the Politburo Standing Committee convened to "re-study, re-deploy, and re-mobilize" to fight the epidemic, and decided to establish a central leadership team for the epidemic.

Let us not mention that January 7 was already a month into the outbreak of the epidemic, or that it is difficult to understand what the content of the deployment and mobilization was. Here is a shocking fact: the content of the statements made on January 7 concerning the Wuhan epidemic seems to have been handled by the official media in the manner of "retain it within the walls of the imperial palace and do not publicize it," and  the outside world was left completely unaware. Was the speaker aware that he had been "blocked," or that it was inappropriate to let the public know? After all is said and done, the root of the matter lies in a lack of freedom.

If newspapers and television stations in Wuhan and Hubei could report the epidemic freely and responsibly, why should they rely on this bureaucratic system of mutual blame? Why do so many people in Wuhan and the whole country get infected and suffer such misfortune? !

Alas, I've said enough. I hope this painful price can make those in authority realize: Without freedom of the press, not only is are the lives of the people made difficult, but there is no trust in the government, much less modern governance capabilities and systems.





The screenshot below was taken on February 20, 2020, and shows that a search for the title of He's letter on Sina Weibo returned no content.

The screenshot on the left below was taken in the afternoon of February 20, 2020, and shows that the first page of Baidu results included 10 results, and the first result was a web page about He's letter (outlined in blued). The screenshot on the right was taken later that same day, and shows that the first page of Baidu results included only nine results, and the first result had been removed.

The screenshot on the left below was taken in the afternoon of February 20, 2020, and shows that a search for the URL for the first Baidu result retrieved the relevant web page. The screenshot on the right was taken later that same day, and shows a search for that URL returned no results.

The screenshot below was taken on February 27, 2020, and shows that the relevant web page was still available, even though Baidu was no longer displaying it in its search results.

The screenshots below were taken in January 2015, and show that at that time:
  • A search on Baidu web search for "He Weifang" returned over 4 million results, including results from social media (blog.sina.com.cn) and foreign (wikipedia.org) websites (outlined in blue).
  • A search on Baidu Zhidao for "He Weifang" returned over 292,000 results.
  • Baidu users had established a PostBar (Tieba) forum on "He Weifang."
The screenshots below were taken in December, 2020, and show that at that time:
  • A search on Baidu web search for "He Weifang" returned over 700,000 results, with no results from social media or foreign websites.
  • A search on Baidu Zhidao for "He Weifang" returned no results.
  • Baidu has banned users from establishing a PostBar (Tieba) forum on "He Weifang." 

5. Tsinghua University Legal Scholar Xu Zhangrun [许章润]

Source: Screenshot of Xu Zhangrun's bio page from Tsinghua University's website
On February 4, 2020, an essay titled "When Fury Overcomes Fear" [愤怒的人民已不再恐惧] by Tsinghua University law professor Xu Zhangrun appeared online. Some excerpts (translation by Geremie R. Barmé, https://www.chinafile.com/reporting-opinion/viewpoint/viral-alarm-when-fury-overcomes-fear):

Unlimited government budgets have funded technological developments that are turning China into a mega data totalitarian state; we are already subjected to a 1984 style of total surveillance and control. This state of affairs has enabled what could be called “WeChat terrorism” which directly targets the country’s vast online population. Through the taxes the masses are, in fact, funding a vast Internet police force dedicated to overseeing, supervising, and tracking everyone and all of the statements and actions they author. The Chinese body politic is riven by a new canker, but it is an infection germane to the system itself. As a result, people live in a state of constant anxiety; they are keenly aware that the Internet terrorism is by no means merely limited to personal WeChat accounts being suspended or shut down entirely, nor to the larger enterprise of banning entire WeChat groups. Everyone knows that the online terror may readily escape the virtual realm to become overtly physical: That is when the authorities use what they have learned online to send in the police in real-time. Widespread anxiety leads to relentless self-censorship; people are beset by nagging fears about what inexplicable punishment may suddenly befall them.

As a result, the potential for meaningful public discussion is stifled. By the same token, the very channels of communication that should in normal circumstances exist for the dissemination of public information are choked off, and a meaningful, civic early-warning system that could play a crucial role at times of local or national emergency is thereby outlawed. In its place we have an evolving form of military tyranny that is underpinned by an ideology that I call “Legalistic-Fascist-Stalinism”, one that is cobbled together from strains of traditional harsh Chinese Legalist thought wedded to an admix of the Leninist-Stalinist interpretation of Marxism along with the “Germano-Aryan” form of fascism.
The screenshots below were taken on February 5, 2020, and show the following results of a search for the title of Xu Zhangrun's essay on China's top three search engines:
  • Baidu: No results.
  • Qihoo: Results restricted to a white list of about 10 websites under the control of the central government, none of which are related to Xu Zhangrun's essay.
  • Sogou: Results restricted to a white list of about 10 websites under the control of the central government, none of which are related to Xu Zhangrun's essay.
The screenshots below were taken in  July, 2018, and show that a search for "Xu Zhangrun" on Baidu returned over 200,000 results, including results from social media websites (like blog.sina.com.cn) and non-government run websites (like aisixiang.com).

The screenshots below were taken in December 2020, and show that a search for "Xu Zhangrun" on Baidu returned over 57,000 results, with no results from social media websites or non-government run websites. Instead, Baidu has restricted results to a white list of about 10 websites under the control of the central government.

6. Former Lawyer Xu Zhiyong [许志永]

Soucre: "Mr. Fashion"  [时尚先生] official blog, archived at https://web.archive.org/web/20090809125245/http://blog.sina.com.cn/s/blog_47404fc70100efcv.html

Xu Zhiyong was a lecturer at the Beijing University of Post and Telecommunications and was one of the founders of the civil society groups Open Constitution Initiative ("Gong Meng" 公盟) and the Chinese News Citizens' Movement (中国新公民运动). In the August 2009 edition of China's Esquire Magazine [时尚先生] Xu said:
I hope that our country can be a free and happy one. No person need betray their conscience. Everyone needs only rely on their talent and character to find their position in life. A simple and happy society, where the goodness of humanity may find its apex, and its malice finds its nadir, where honesty, trust, kindness, and helping one another becomes commonplace, where there is not so much anger and anxiety, and there is a pure smile on every face.


On February 4, 2020, Xu Zhiyong published an open letter dated January 20 entitled "A Written Admonishment Urging Retirement" [劝退书]. Some excerpts:

The first infected person appeared on December 1, 2019; by the end of the month Wuhan’s hospitals were full of them. Yet the local police intimidated the eight doctors who tried to raise the alarm and CCTV set about “dispelling rumors.” These acts of connivance were aimed at preventing the truth from getting out. By January 12, 2020 at the latest, when the Center for Disease Control and Prevention published details of the genetic makeup of the virus, you should have been completely aware of what was going on but you continued to delay releasing information about the actual situation. Your prevarication led to an unconfined and explosive spread of what is now a nationwide epidemic. The lessons of 2003 are right there in front of your eyes. Do you really mean to tell us that you are completely out of touch and lacking any sensitivity to these facts?


On February 15, 2020 Xu Zhiyong was taken into detention by Chinese authorities.
The screenshot on the left below was taken on January 2, 2020, and shows that a search for "Xu Zhiyong" returned over 230,000 results, including results from social media (blogchina.com, Sina Weibo) and foreign (canadainternational.gc.ca) websites. The screenshot on the right below was taken on December 20, 2020, and shows the same search on Baidu returns over 50,000 results, all from about 10 websites operated by the central government.

More coverage of Xu Zhiyong on this blog can be found here:

7. Businessman Ren Zhiqiang [任志强]

Source: Phoenix News

Prior to 2013 Ren Zhiqiang was a member of the Beijing Municipal Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference. On February 15, 2015, the websites of several mainland China news outlets published an article entitled "Ren Zhiqiang: Our Government Basically Does Not Care About Protecting Private Property" (任志强:我们的政府根本就不想保护私有财产). Some excerpts:

GDP is falling. Why is it some are some investments moving abroad? Besides us, are others also investing abroad? So what are the reasons underlying falling private investment? Perhaps the main reasons are that the government has no credibility, violates its contracts, and appropriates private property. In addition, the government puts excessive emphasis on the gun and the knife and opposes Western value systems. The winds of the Cultural Revolution are picking up again. Furthermore, when it comes protecting private property, they talk about rule of law, when in fact the rule of law they emphasize is the power of government.


The article was deleted from those websites, and for the next several years Ren Zhiqiang's ability to publish on PRC based websites was gradually restricted and he became of target of the Party and the government. See:

In early March, 2020 an essay attributed to Ren Zhiqiang began circulating online. Here are some excerpts from the untitled essay:

The reality shown by this epidemic is that the Party defends its own interests, the government officials defend their own interests, and the monarch only defends the status and interests of the core. Precisely this type of system is capable of a situation where only the ruler’s order is obeyed with no regard for the people. When the epidemic had already broken out, they wouldn’t dare admit it to the public without the king’s command. They wouldn’t dare announce the facts of the matter, and instead used the method of catching and criticizing “rumors” to restrict the spread of truth, resulting in the disease’s uncontainable spread. . . . 

China’s ruling party concealed the cause of the outbreak, then using the power of the entire country, followed up by sealing a city, deceiving the trust of the WHO, and winning international praise. But, it was harder to again deceive the Chinese people caught in the epidemic. Those who live in a democratic country with freedom of speech perhaps don’t know the pain of the lack of a free press and free expression. But Chinese people know that this epidemic and all the unnecessary suffering it brought came directly from a system that strictly prohibits the freedom of press and speech.  

这次疫情中可以看到的现实是,党在维护党的利益,官在维护官的利益,君则只是在维护一尊的核心地位与利益。正是这种体制造成了,只听君命而不顾民情的情况。当疫情已经发生时,却不敢在没有君令的情况下,向民众公布疫情。不敢公布事实与真相,反而用抓批“谣言”的方式,限制和阻止真相的传播,才造成了不可控制的传播。. . . .


Translation: China Digital Times - https://chinadigitaltimes.net/2020/03/translation-essay-by-missing-property-tycoon-ren-zhiqiang/. A full translation can be found here: https://web.archive.org/web/20200408113951/http://credibletarget.net/notes/RZQ.

Ren Zhiqiang was detained on March 12, 2020, and sentenced to 18 years in prison on September 22, 2020, for financial crimes.

The screenshot below on the left was taken on March 15, 2020, and shows that a search for "Ren Zhiqiang" on Baidu returned over 13 million results, mostly from websites licensed by, but not under the direct control of, the government (such Phoenix, Netease, and Tencent). The screenshot on the right was taken on March 16, 2020, and shows that the same search returns over 13,000 results, and all of the organic search results are from about 10 websites under the direct control over the central government (The People's Daily and China Radio International).

8. Zhang Zhan [张展]


On December 28, 2020, a court in Beijing sentenced Zhang Zhan to four years imprisonment for disturbing the peace in a public venue based on the following:

[D]uring the critical period of Wuhan's prevention and control of the novel coronavirus infectious pneumonia epidemic, defendant Zhang Zhan in her capacity as a witness repeatedly used WeChat, "Twitter" (Tui Te), "YouTube" (You Guan) and other Internet media to indiscriminately fabricate and publish documentary and commentary articles and information in text, video, and other formats to distort the circumstances of Wuhan's prevention and control of the novel coronavirus infectious pneumonia epidemic. In addition, she accepted interviews with foreign media Radio Free Asia and The Epoch Times and thereby led to a large number of relevant false information to be spread on domestic and foreign information networks, newspapers ,and magazines, which in fact caused a large number of Internet users to view, comment, and forward. It confused viewers and caused severe disruption of public order, and her actions constitute the commission of the crime of disturbing the peace.

被告人张展在武汉市防控新型冠状病毒感染肺炎疫情的关键期间,以亲历者的身份多次通过微信、“twitter”(推特)、“YouTube”(油管)等网络媒介以文字、视频等方式肆意编造、发布内容为歪曲武汉市防控新型冠状病毒感染肺炎疫情情况的记录性、评论性文章及信息并以此接受境外媒体“自由亚洲电台”、“大纪元”的采访,导致相关虚假信息在境内外信息网络、 报刊媒体上大量散布,并实际引发大量网民观看、评论、转发, 混淆视听,造成公共秩序严重混乱,其行为已构成寻衅滋事罪。 

See: Translation: Judgment in the Case of Citizen Journalist Zhang Zhan's Reporting on the Novel Coronavirus Outbreak in Wuhan, https://blog.feichangdao.com/2021/01/covid-zhang-zhan-wuhan-journalist-judgment.html

The screenshot below was taken on December 30, 2020, and shows that a search on Baidu for "Zhang Zhan" returned three results relevant to Zhang's conviction - two from Netease (which were deleted within 48 hours) and one from Phoenix News - a copy of a Sina Weibo post by Hu Xijin, editor of the state sponsored Global Times, titled "Western Political and Public Opinion Powers Please Stop Your Continued Harming of Zhang Zhan" [请西方政治和舆论力量不要再继续害张展了]. 

That post was almost identical to Hu's op-ed that appeared on the Global Times' website a few hours later in Chinese and English:

Some excerpts from the English language editorial:

Zhang went to Wuhan as a "citizen journalist" in February. There, she published her so-called independent reports on social media platforms both at home and abroad. In October 2019, she publicly supported the protest in Hong Kong against the then already withdrawn anti-extradition bill and was temporarily detained for holding an umbrella that read: "The Communist Party of China should step down."

Western public opinion appreciates her values and her "bravery." But I believe she will hit the dead end of the Chinese legal framework if she keeps doing this for long. 

. . . .

In fact, during Wuhan's lockdown, many journalists were there reporting the real situation. Various kinds of videos were constantly released by ordinary residents on social media platforms. Since late January, the information surrounding Wuhan has been fairly adequate. With so many people writing and photographing the real situation, some of these works directly led to relevant officials being held accountable. Meanwhile, some of the articles and photos got the situation wrong, sparking fierce controversy. But apart from the online squabble, none led to serious consequences.

Why was Zhang the only one sentenced to 4-year imprisonment for picking quarrels and provoking trouble? I hope she can get out of what the Western ideology instilled in her mind.