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High-profile deaths belie China’s laughable Covid figures

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(TibetanReview.net, Jan07’23) – The death of many celebrities and leading personalities in China in recent days without any mention of cause is leading to open suspicions that far more people are dying from the Covid-19 pandemic than admitted by the government, reported the bbc.com Jan 5 and theguardian.com Jan 6. The country has officially admitted only 22 deaths since Dec 2022, even as its hospitals and crematoriums are overwhelmed by patients with severe symptoms and the dead, said the reports. And what gives Beijing’s game away is the unusually large numbers of high-profile deaths.

The reported celebrity deaths, with no mention of cause, included Chu Lanlan, a 40-year-old opera singer; actor Gong Jintang, 83, a household name for his performance in the country’s longest-running TV series, In-Laws; acclaimed scriptwriter Ni Zhen, 84, famous for his work on the 1991 film Raise the Red Lantern, which is widely considered to be one of the best Chinese films by critics; Wang Jingguang, 54, an award-winning film director best known for his 2013 movie Never Come Back; Hu Fuming, 87, a former journalist and retired professor of Nanjing University, the main author of a famous commentary published in 1978 that marked the start of the China’s “Boluan Fanzheng” period; and retired soccer star Wang Ruoji, 37.

The bbc.com report cited a tally by Chinese media as saying 16 scientists from the country’s top science and engineering academies had died between Dec 21 and 26.

None of these deaths were linked to Covid in their obituaries, the report noted.

Furthermore, the Chinese Academy of Engineering reported that 20 members had died in less than a month, compared with an average annual death rate of 16, reported the scmp.com Jan 5.

The report also cited a doctor in Beijing as saying academy members usually had privileged access to healthcare, but now there were no beds available to treat them.

The academy has said more senior Chinese engineers and scientists had died in less than a month than typically die in a year following the government’s decision to lift Covid controls.

* * *

Under a Weibo hashtag that reads “the first Covid wave did not cause a massive amount of deaths”, which refers to a December quote from a Chinese health official, many Chinese internet users have angrily questioned what they called a huge underestimate in the death toll. The hashtag had more than 220m views by Friday (Jun 6) afternoon, noted theguardian.com report.

“Whether it is academicians or celebrities … or my relatives and friends in close contact, I really feel many people have died, but experts keep saying that was not the case,” it quoted one person as having commented.

And another user has said: “I beg those adults who can’t see the ants on the ground to see how many people have passed away due to Covid. Just how many people who have great contributions to the country have died? And these were all celebrities.”

* * *

China scrapped its strict zero-Covid policy in December and has seen a rapid surge of infections and deaths. The country later stopped publishing daily cases data. And only those who die from respiratory illnesses such as pneumonia are counted as Covid deaths.

On Jan 4, the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that China was under-representing the true impact of Covid in the country – in particular deaths, the report said.

“We continue to ask China for more rapid, regular, reliable data on hospitalizations and deaths, as well as more comprehensive, real-time viral sequencing,” edition.cnn.com Jan 6 quoted WHO director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus as saying at a media briefing in Geneva that day.

It cited WHO executive director for health emergencies Mike Ryan as saying the numbers released by China “under-represent the true impact of the disease” in terms of hospital and ICU admissions, as well as deaths.

He has acknowledged that many countries had seen lags in reporting hospital data, but pointed to China’s “narrow” definition of a Covid death as part of the issue.

Nevertheless, on Jan 5, China’s Foreign Ministry said the country had always shared epidemic information “in a timely, open and transparent manner” and insisted its Covid situation was “under control.”

But WHO officials, who have grappled with Beijing’s tight control of data access throughout the pandemic, have become increasingly vocal in their calls for reliable information as a major outbreak rips across China’s urban centers in the wake of an abrupt relaxation of disease controls last month, the report said.

More and more countries have imposed negative test report requirements from arrivals from China. These already include France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain and Sweden from the EU, and Australia, Canada, India, Israel, Malaysia, Morocco, Qatar, South Korea, Taiwan and the USA, noted the euronews.com and Reuters Jan 6. Most recently, the European Union “strongly” recommended that all member states insist on negative Covid tests from Chinese arrivals before they travel.

These measures came ahead of travelling in and out of China getting easier from Jan 8, as part of the country’s scrapping of the “zero-Covid” policy. China has threatened to retaliate, especially those that only target arrivals from China.

Gordon Chang, a China critic, author, and a senior fellow of Gatestone Institute has accused China of wanting to infect the world by rejecting international travel curbs and concealing Covid data.

(Left to right) Chu Lanlan, a 40-year-old opera singer; actor Gong Jintang, 83 and Hu Fuming 87, a former journalist.

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