The coronavirus we’ve all been talking about for weeks has been officially labeled severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2). The reason for the 2 is that there is already a SARS-CoV-1. Like the current virus, SARS-CoV-1 spread from Chinese horseshoe bats and is believed to have infected a type of cat called a civet at a Chinese wet market in southern China. From there it spread to humans, eventually resulting in over 8,000 casese worldwide and around 800 deaths.
The Chinese government’s response to the original SARS outbreak in 2002-2003 was to lie and attempt to cover it up. We know this because one man, a Chinese surgeon named Jiang Yanyong, blew the whistle on the cover up attempt by sending reports to news organizations not controlled by the Chinese government. This comes from a 2007 article published by the NY Times:
Dr. Jiang rose to international prominence in 2003, when he disclosed in a letter circulated to international news organizations that at least 100 people were being treated in Beijing hospitals for severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS. At the time, the Chinese medical authorities were asserting that the entire nation had only a handful of cases of the disease.
The revelation prompted China’s top leaders to acknowledge that they had provided false information about the epidemic. The health minister and the mayor of Beijing were removed from their posts.
China’s efforts to control the narrative about the new SARS virus back then, sounds a lot like what the NY Times described China doing this January:
The authorities have acted swiftly to clamp down on discussion about the outbreak. Censors blocked the hashtag #WuhanSARS. The police said they were investigating eight people in Wuhan for “spreading rumors” online about the disease, an announcement that was met with anger on Sina Weibo, one of China’s most popular social media sites.
We now know that China investigated thousands of people for spreading “rumors” about the virus online. The government also attempted to silence two doctors who were the first to blow the whistle, Dr. Li Wenliang and Dr. Ai Fen, both of whom worked at a hospital in Wuhan. Dr. Li died of the virus on Feb. 6 and Dr. Fen disappeared after she gave an interview to a Chinese magazine last month describing how the government tried to silence her and her fellow doctors. The interview was quickly censored on China’s internet.
As for Dr. Jiang, the SARS whistleblower, he became a public hero and used his newfound status to pressure the government over the Tiananmen crackdown. In response, the CCP put him in jail.
Dr. Jiang was initially hailed as a hero in Chinese and foreign news media. He used his new prestige in 2004 to press China’s ruling Politburo Standing Committee to admit that the leadership had made a mistake in ordering the military to shoot unarmed civilians on June 3 and 4, 1989, when troops were deployed to suppress democracy protests that began in Tiananmen Square in Beijing.
Dr. Jiang, who treated Beijing residents wounded in the 1989 assault, contended that the official line that the crackdown was necessary to put down a rebellion was false. His statement antagonized party leaders, who consider the crackdown a matter of enormous political sensitivity.
Jiang Zemin, then the leader of the military, ordered the detention of Dr. Jiang, who spent several months in custody, people involved in his defense say. Dr. Jiang was eventually allowed to return to his home but remained under constant watch.
Dr. Jiang is still alive. In February the Guardian reported the 88-year-old was living in isolation after a hospital stay that sounds like a nightmare:
Since April last year, officials have cut off Jiang’s contact with the outside world and restricted his movements after he wrote to the top leadership asking for a reassessment of the 1989 Tiananmen Square pro-democracy movement, said a close friend, on condition of anonymity.
His wife, Hua Zhongwei, confirmed he was confined to his home. “He is not allowed to be in contact with people outside. He is at home. He has no means of communication [with outside],” she said. “His health is not good. He is not in a good mental state either. He is not very well.”
She said he suffered from pneumonia and was treated in hospital last year. “I am sorry, it is not convenient to say more,” she said.
Jiang was treated in 301 military hospital in Beijing – the hospital where he served for more than 60 years – from April last year for more than a month, and was heavily guarded and banned from being visited by his family, his friend said. The doctor became agitated and was given medication, which led to severe memory loss, the friend said. Officias have restricted his movement since then.
For warning the world about SARS and challenging the CCP’s massacre of students at Tiananmen, Dr. Jiang became a political prisoner, one who has government minders watching him even when he’s in the hospital. To speak up (as Dr. Ai Fen did) is to risk a lifetime of punishment in this communist hellhole.