Over the past 12 hours, social media in China and over the world are in fury over the startling news: Li Wenliang, the doctor who first warned his government about a threat of a coronavirus outbreak, died of the illness last night. What we don’t know is that he had been targeted by the Chinese police for doing so. Now, China is showing an unprecedented outburst of public anger against their government and its censorship. The hashtag #IWantFreedomOfSpeech itself has been censored…
WHY THIS MATTERS
Last December, medical residents of Wuhan hospitals were detained for attempting to blow the whistle on the Coronavirus outbreak, accused of “spreading rumors”. One of them was young doctor Li Wenliang. When Li himself succumbed to the virus, he stated to CNN that he only wanted to remind everyone to be careful, not to start a panic. He died last night, one of hundreds of fatalities from the outbreak now affecting dozens of countries around the world. If his warning embarrassed his government, his death disastrously reveals a censorship crisis.
BIRTH OF A NEW CRISIS
When the news death of Li spread, the reaction on the internet was immediate and viral. Chinese people are angry at those in charge of the vast censorship apparatus in China. Topics related to censorship itself keep surfacing before being deleted and censored after a few hours. Even the hashtag “We want freedom of speech” was deleted after millions of views and reposts. The whole crisis even sparked doubts over Li’s death. The Chinese government sure is in a hot spot at the moment, as the crisis is exacerbating the already shaky foundations of the state regarding social stability.
SOCIAL STABILITY COMPROMISED
If the failure to contain the virus outbreak is the primary failure by Chinese government that the world is outlining, at the same time, it has unveiled underlying issues on the economic war between the US and China over trade. The outbreak has definitely made matters worse, and the system that China relies on has shown signs of cracks, its weaknesses being exposed. And with censorship, this is exactly what China is trying to plug, in order to maintain stability, both socially and economically.
SOURCE: CNN ASIA