How many people died in the coronavirus outbreak in China? Is China lying through its teeth about the real Covid-19 death toll? Did the Communist regime suppress data and smother free communication so much so that 'millions' of deaths were hidden?
A big clump of conspiracy theories have insinuated that Beijing was successful in hiding the number of people killed in the Coronavirus outbreak. But are these theories and accusations accurate? Or are they mere figments of imagination? China is easily the fall guy. A conspiracy theory happily grows on China, always.
There's this 'iron curtain' in China, the lack of individual freedoms and perennial government eavesdropping on people's personal lives. [But in which country are people entirely free of these pestilential government interference? As someone said, every country that has a ministry of information has something to hide.]
Series of accusations
China faced a series of accusations after the virus that originated in Wuhan started singing the rest of the world with an unprecedented health crisis.
The most serious was that the coronavirus pathogen escaped from a Wuhan laboratory where the Chinese government was making biological weapons. The World Health Organisation (WHO) debunked this, but the jury is still out, in all fairness.
The second was that China lied about the nature of the virus and the scope of its damage in the initial phase. And this remains a fair charge. China did lie, prevaricate and fudge information over the threat of the virus, how it spreads and how damaging it was.
The third major charge was that China allowed the spread of the virus throughout the world. This too is a fairly correct accusation. China did nothing in the initial phase to stop the contagion. Beijing acted like it was another stray case of the flu and did not bother to alert the world. Millions were allowed to travel to and out of Wuhan throughout a crucial phase of the virus spread. This invariably allowed the virus to go everywhere in the world.
Game begins to looks absurd
So yes, China is the fall guy. Rightly so. But the game begins to looks absurd when theorists infer that hundreds of thousands of people have died of coronavirus in China. The most far-fetched theories say 'millions' might have died, piecing together rather unrelated data sets like the mobile phone subscriptions that have gone dead.
There's steady and loyal clientele for the conspiracy theories and they do make for salacious consumption. But how could China, or any country for that matter, suppress deaths of such a large scale?
Bloomberg News carried an article on Friday dealing with the China deaths puzzle. The story opens with the suggestion that there could have been more deaths in China than reported. According to official Chinese statistics, some 3,290 people have died so far from the coronavirus. The report cites a Chinese news portal that said thousands of urns were seen at eight local funeral homes in Wuhan after the authorities allowed relatives to pick up the remains of their loved ones.
Comparison of funeral data in Wuhan
"Outside one funeral home, trucks shipped in about 2,500 urns on both Wednesday and Thursday, according to Chinese media outlet Caixin. Another picture published by Caixin showed 3,500 urns stacked on the ground inside. It's unclear how many of the urns had been filled," the story says.
But the article then goes on to make a comparison of funeral data in Wuhan over the years. "There were 56,007 cremations in Wuhan in the fourth quarter of 2019, according to data from the city's civil affairs agency. The number of cremations was 1,583 higher than those in the fourth quarter of 2018 and 2,231 higher than the fourth quarter of 2017."
If this data is trusted, it can be argued that the Chinese official death toll may not have been wide off the mark. If it cannot be trusted, then it only means that a whole lot of Chinese people were buried or cremated off the records. Can people with families, identities, homes, jobs, bank loans, illicit affairs and court cases disappear in their thousands without a trace from the face of Earth? Even in China?