China Daily via Reuters
Chinese people are criticizing local authorities' delayed response to the Wuhan coronavirus online, comparing its handling of the outbreak to how the Soviet Union mishandled the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
Some referred to the Wuhan virus outbreak as "Chernobyl 2020" and made comments that Chinese people were "witnessing history" repeat itself.
The comments appeared on a Chinese film review website in discussion groups for HBO's miniseries "Chernobyl" — a rare instance of open dissent in one of the most censored countries in the world.
As the Chinese government grapples with how to contain the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak that has infected 2,800 people worldwide, some Chinese people are comparing the government's handling of the epidemic to that in another historical event: the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, the world's worst nuclear accident.
On a Chinese film and book review website called, "Douban," a series of comments about the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak have appeared in a discussion group about HBO's historical period drama "Chernobyl," a miniseries dramatizing the Soviet Union's mishandling of the nuclear accident in their attempts to hide the catastrophe, Quartz first reported.
Several users said they were "[witnessing] history," drawing parallels between the Chinese local authorities' attempts to suppress information about the Wuhan outbreak to the Soviet Union's attempts to cover up the nuclear accident at the Chernobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine.
While Soviet Union officials delayed evacuation and withheld information about the dangers of the nuclear radiation leaks, Wuhan residents have accused authorities of not warning the public about the potential risks of the coronavirus outbreak. One user even referred to the outbreak as "Chernobyl 2020," but the comment has since been deleted.
"The first time I saw ["Chernobyl,"] I had to stop a few times because it was so stupid and depressing," one user commented. "Watching it this time, my colleagues in Wuhan told me ambulances noises are nonstop, turns out we are the real Chernobyl..."
Another user said they hoped Chinese officials would learn from the experiences recreated in the HBO miniseries. The user added that the only thing that can protect citizens from the outbreak is the free flow of information, not technological advances.
"What can protect us? Not an aircraft carrier, not landing on the dark side of the moon kind of stuff...," the user wrote. "But it's the freedom of information, news, and an independent judiciary."
Several others online pointed to China's previous state-sanctioned cover-up of the 2003 SARS outbreak, insinuating that the political leaders of Wuhan "can't hide it anymore" and suggesting officials should step down.
The criticism comes as the mayor of Wuhan admitted that information about the coronavirus was not released quickly enough.
"We haven't disclosed information in a timely manner and also did not use effective information to improve our work," Zhou Xianwang told a Chinese state broadcaster CCTV, the Guardian reported. Following the news that 81 people have died from the outbreak thus far, Zhou accepted responsibility for the crisis and offered to resign, the New York Times reported.
Wuhan residents have been outraged that the public was not informed earlier about the potential risks related to the outbreak, which is believed to have begun in a wet market in Wuhan in December. In the crucial first days of the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak, Chinese authorities reportedly arrested citizens and journalists they accused of spreading rumors about the illness online.
Now the Chinese government has focused its efforts on containing the illness by quarantining Wuhan's 11 million residents and residents of 12 other cities, rushing to build a hospital in Wuhan within six days, and placing restrictions on overseas travel. Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Saturday that the virus is spreading faster and poses a "grave threat" to the country.
Despite their efforts, the Wuhan coronavirus has spread to 12 countries, including Japan, France, Australia, Canada, and the US.
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