As coronavirus threatens legitimacy, China targets victims and critics


The Chinese authorities are clamping down as grieving relatives, along with activists, press the ruling Communist Party for an accounting of what went wrong in Wuhan, where the coronavirus killed thousands before spreading to the rest of China and the world. And as more voices overseas call for China to compensate the rest of the world for the pandemic, the party has cast its domestic critics as tools being used by foreign forces to undermine it, Vivian WangAmy Qin and  write for the Times:

The party has long been wary of public grief and the dangers it could pose to its rule. In 2008, after an earthquake in Sichuan Province killed at least 69,000 people, Chinese officials offered hush money to parents whose children died. Following a deadly train crash in the city of Wenzhou in 2011, officials prevented relatives from visiting the site. Each June, the authorities in Beijing silence family members of protesters who were killed in the 1989 crackdown on the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy movement.

Hu Shih/Wikipedia

Such civic-minded citizens who commit small acts of bravery are the heirs of China’s celebrated May Fourth movement, according to Deputy National Security Advisor Matt Pottinger (above). Dr. Li Wenliang was such a person.  Dr. Li wasn’t a demagogue in search of a new ideology that might save China. His small act of bravery, in late December, was to pass along a warning via WeChat to his former medical school classmates that patients afflicted by a dangerous new virus were turning up in Wuhan hospitals, he told the Miller Center at the University of Virginia.

In his speech Monday, Pottinger drew on the example of modern-day Taiwan and historical figures to counter Beijing’s argument that the Chinese are ill suited to democracy, the SCMP adds. His remarks included references to Hu Shih, a leading thinker of the May Fourth Movement who advocated liberalism and P.C. Chang, a diplomat who helped draft the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

“To me it’s the most remarkable speech we’ve ever seen from anyone in the Trump administration,” said Bonnie Glaser, director of the China power project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

“If you’re a member of the Chinese Communist party, you might read [the invocation of the May the Fourth movement] as encouraging people to challenge some of the existing parts of your political system. It didn’t quite say overthrow your leaders, but it certainly encouraged the rise of the masses, shall we say,” she told the Guardian.

The escalating row between Washington and Beijing over blame for the coronavirus pandemic is fast becoming a battle over the Chinese Communist party’s legitimacy, raising the stakes in an already fraught relationship, the Guardian adds.

China’s surrogates in Hong Kong have clearly been unnerved by a recent report – The Promise of Democratization in Hong Kong – from a core institute of the National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

Beijing’s liaison office in Hong Kong continued its barrage of criticism over the city’s affairs, slamming “anti-China” politicians and foreign forces yesterday for opposing national security legislation and glorifying the criminal acts of the city’s radical protesters, the South China Morning Post adds:

Yesterday, the office targeted the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs (NDI), a pro-democracy group funded by the United States Congress, for an April 23 report that accused ­Beijing of falsely blaming last year’s social unrest on “malevolent foreign forces”. The NDI had urged the central government to “refrain from any further moves that undermine Hong Kong’s high degree of autonomy”.

The regime’s propaganda outlets have also been taking a shot at grantees of the “notorious National Endowment for Democracy,” including Xiao Qiang, the widely celebrated founder of China Digital Times.

With Australia staring down economic coercion from China, it is important to remember that economies like Australia and Canada actually have significant advantages in a dispute with China and Beijing is taking significant risks, says a new report (above) from the Macdonald-Laurier Institute @MLInstitute. #cdnpoli #cdnecon #auspol

The Center for Strategic and International Studies hosts a book discussion webcast at 1 p.m. on “The Myth of Chinese Capitalism: The Worker, the Factory, and the Future of the World” with author Dexter Roberts, fellow at the University of Montana’s Maureen and Mike Mansfield Center; and Scott Kennedy, CSIS chair in Chinese business and economics. May 5, 2020. RSVP: Andrew Schwartz, 202-775-3242

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