Overseas Chinese Democracy Coalition News and Article Release Issue: A14-W2

Release Date: April 29, 2003

Topic: International Herald Tribune Article Written by Wei Jingsheng about SARS


From International Herald Tribune

SARS Tests Communist Rule in China

By Wei Jingsheng
Monday, April 28, 2003

WASHINGTON: Because of early official denials and cover-ups over the spread of SARS - severe acute respiratory syndrome - some analysts have christened this crisis "
China's Chernobyl." The initial secrecy of the former Soviet regime after the Chernobyl nuclear accident, which completely ignored the interests of public health, is considered by historians to be one of the final blunders of a closed totalitarian system that ultimately led to its demise. In the wake of that disaster, Mikhail Gorbachev was compelled to use the policy of "glasnost" or openness as a means to recover legitimacy for Communist Party rule. But, as Gorbachev discovered, opening a closed system necessarily spells its demise.

Will the same be true for China?

The fast-spreading SARS virus and the mounting death toll of victims have caused worldwide attention and anxiety. Neglected by outside observers, however, have been frantic rumors within China that have aroused public imagination. These include the notion that SARS emanated from China's biological weapons research facilities. Indeed, many Chinese believe the Chinese Communist Party secretly backed Osama bin Laden as a way to menace the United States. Some suggest China and Russia were more likely to provide him with these means of terror than Iraq.

True or not, these rumors reveal the fragile legitimacy of regimes, such as China or the old Soviet Union, that are based upon totalitarian control of information: When governments cannot be trusted to tell the truth, people will believe anything. Then, when such a regime admits its lies, it does so at its own peril.

To dampen rumors about biological weapons leakage and to demonstrate that the government was implementing measures to combat SARS, China's new paramount leader, Hu Jintao, recently conducted a highly publicized inspection tour, including one of the
Chinese Military Medical Academy, a bio-military research facility.

No doubt if SARS continues to worsen to epidemic proportions in China, Hu's belated glasnost will undermine his credibility, not enhance it. Everyone is already asking: "Why didn't he act sooner? How can we live in a system that values control of information above public health?"

During the Gorbachev era in the
Soviet Union, the internal fighting was intense at the leadership level. Each faction used the others' failures as an offensive weapon, causing an even further erosion of confidence in the leadership. The same thing is happening in today's China. Hiding information about something as dangerous as SARS could only have been sanctioned at the highest levels - the Politburo and Secretariat. No mere minister of health or Beijing mayor would have the courage or power to hide this kind of information. Their recent dismissal was the usual story: Lower officials are scapegoats for high-level irresponsibility.

What is unusual this time is that the scapegoats are from different factions. One is from Hu Jintao's side; the other is allied with Jiang Zemin, Hu's predecessor and continuing competitor. Were they having fierce internal fights and unable to collaborate with each other, causing paralysis as SARS spread rapidly around the country? Or, having suddenly realized the stakes, have they decided on a truce where each side loses one scapegoat in order to save their common skin - the Communist Party?

We don't know. We only know this: Most Chinese believe that the Communist regime is guilty of concealing information about an infectious disease that threatens the entire country. The Communist government had to admit this fact, and the implications must be clear.

Finally, there is a big difference between the SARS disaster and Chernobyl. During the Chernobyl crisis, Western countries heavily criticized the
Soviet Union. That pressure was, in large part, what made Chernobyl a turning point that led to Soviet collapse.

By contrast, Western leaders today need Beijing's support in their own internal dispute over Iraq and in dealing with North Korea. More than a shame, it would be an historic mistake to pass up this opportunity to make China's leaders accountable to their own people and to the world at large. The virus next time is sure to be more virulent.






SARS 使人们想到切尔诺贝利》    -- 魏京生

最近有关SARS 病迅速传播导致越来越多中国人和外国人死亡的报导,特别是有关从中国生物武器研究机关传播出SARS病毒的猜测,引起了广泛的注意。有两则重要的新闻没有引起观察家的重视,但已引起许多中国人的联想。一则是去年十二月在香港广泛散发的本.拉登的传单预言2003年会在香港开始一场大灾难。许多中国人都相信中国共产党是本.拉登的后台老板,恐怖份子们使用的生物武器的最终来源可是是俄罗斯和中国。萨达姆.侯赛因没有能力研究生物武器。而中国政府广泛支持和援助各种类型的恐怖组织,这在中国不是秘密。
1    大多数中国人相信中共政权是隐瞒疫情的责任者,中共被迫不得不承认这个事实。
2    不负责任的政权研制和储存大规模杀伤武器的危险不仅仅在它会使用。在不使用的情况下,也可能对人类的生存构成毁灭性的灾难。



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