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,

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,

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 (

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, 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,

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,

 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.

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

That article originally appeared at It was archived by the Internet Archive here:

At 12:14 pm on January 31, 2020, Dr. Li Wenliang posted the following on his personal Sina Weibo (xiaolwl -

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,
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,,
At 12:57 am on February 7, 2020, the state sponsored Global Times tweeted that Li Wenliang was under emergency treatment.

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,

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:
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.


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: - 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 ( and foreign ( 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,

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 and non-government run websites (like

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

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 (, Sina Weibo) and foreign ( websites. The screenshot on the right below was taken on January 3, 2020, and shows the same search on Baidu returns only 84 results, all from about 10 websites operated by the central government.