China government have declared that the authorities have finally brought the Coronavirus outbreak under control in the country but now they are facing a different issue related to how authorities contained the virus. The officials have been questioning and detaining people who might leak information related to the COVID-19 that challenge the official statements.

Internet-savvy archivists and volunteers who staffed critical emergency services from the epicentre city of Wuhan are among those people who are now being interrogated by the Chinese authorities over suspicions they provided foreign organizations with documentation that has led to accusations that CCP intentionally covered up the scale of the outbreak.

China government is concerned

Indonesia: Hundreds of people affected by haze-related illness
China Coronavirus Reuters

Earlier it was reported that Chinese officials are threatening and silencing residents of Wuhan who were seeking help to sue the government due to the Coronavirus outbreak in the city in which they lost their families and loved ones. Now, the authorities are questioning volunteers, some of whom ran a telephone hotline that became a well-known resource offering both counselling services and help to find open hospital beds in Wuhan.

As reported by NPR, these hotline volunteers kept a count of hospital beds and emergency cases of the COVID-19 across the city and such information could be used for estimating fatalities. An unnamed person familiar with the police questioning revealed that the officers said that they have been "Investigating whether different Chinese volunteer groups provided US intelligence agencies with the real death number of COVID-19 in China."

Another Shanghai-based volunteer group revealed that an organizer was interrogated by Chinese officials in connection with possibly leaking details to foreign agencies and was asked to provide a list of names of other volunteers but the organizer refused to identify the volunteers.

The effort to silence people who might provide internal information contradicting the official narrative given by China comes as US intelligence reports claim that Beijing has been hiding the real death toll of the Coronavirus. Meanwhile, US states like Missouri and Mississippi sued China over the damage caused by the pandemic, while many Americans who filed several lawsuits alleging that China hid the scale of the outbreak in Wuhan.

China's handling of the Coronavirus crisis

Living amidst the smog of China
A police officer wears a face mask Reuters

It should be mentioned that while China has been denying all these allegations about the cover-up of COVID-19, China's state broadcaster ran a segment on its popular evening news program, featuring footage of US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo with "liar" stamped in red letters on the screen, in response to the allegations from Pompeo that the virus was leaked from a lab in Wuhan.

In past few months, Beijing tech worker Chen Mei and more than a dozen other volunteers used GitHub which is an open-source platform to archive copies of several reports and essays put together by Chinese writers and journalists as well as freelance bloggers. But China's internet censors had deleted these archives which also included the profile of the popular Wuhan doctor Ai Fen who shared the reports of a patient with pneumonia-like symptoms at the early stage of the outbreak via WeChat.

On April 19, Chen was detained by the Chinese authorities along with his two friends, who helped to update GitHub archive, a platform which is not banned in China. Their lawyers said they have been unable to meet or communicate with their clients.

Many people also claimed that the authorities failed to notify about the outbreak the residents of Wuhan within time. As per NPR, a lawyer who has been providing legal aid to Wuhan residents and is a part of a group that includes around 20 lawyers who helped Wuhan people seeking to sue the authority said that "They made a mistake, and they will not allow people to take them to court." In April, many lawyers were asked by the Chinese justice ministry officials to stop their pro bono work and to reveal the names of other lawyers in the group and plaintiffs.