China’s great wall of silence: what is Beijing hiding?

China’s great wall of silence: what is Beijing hiding? By Cameron Stewart.

On January 3, Robert Redfield, head of the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, picked up the phone to his counterpart in China to ask him about rumours of a new and potentially deadly virus. Gao Fu, head of the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, did not hold back. He burst into tears as he told Redfield about the mysterious new disease that had emerged in Wuhan.

Redfield was surprised. The Chinese government had yet to report its first death. While China had told the World Health Organisation’s Beijing office that a mysterious pneumonia had been found in Wuhan, it had not given any outward indication that things were serious.

Redfield rang US Health Secretary Alex Azar, who contacted the White House’s National ­Security Council, and within days, on January 6, the Trump administration had offered to send a team of America’s best disease experts to China.

“We made the offer to send the CDC experts in to assist their Chinese colleagues to get to the bottom of key scientific questions like, how transmissible is this disease? What is the severity? What is the incubation period? And can there be asymptomatic transmission?” says Azar.

But Beijing said no.

“China nice-talked it for a month,” says Kenneth Cuccinelli, a top US Homeland Security official. “ ‘Oh, well, thank you for the offer. Blah, blah.’ ”

What the White House did not know at that moment was that China was concealing from the world what it knew of a disease that was about to turn life as we know it upside down. …

Now, with the Chinese-born virus cutting a swath of death and economic destruction across the globe, Beijing is being asked to ­explain.

Specifically, it is being asked to explain exactly how the virus began and why China underplayed to the world the disease’s ability to spread and kill.

Beijing stands accused of ­robbing the rest of the world of valuable time to prepare for the pandemic that was about to be ­unleashed.

For weeks, China kept to itself what would become the world’s deadliest secret. It concealed what it knew even from its own people. It buried the truth and punished doctors and reporters who tried to tell it. It let its own people travel across the world, knowing they could be carrying a highly contagious killer virus. In short, Beijing’s lies helped to infect the rest of the world.

The postmortem is beginning. The world has a China problem.