The Digital Forensic Center analyzed an interview of Liu Jinn, an Ambassador of the People’s Republic of China, published in the “Vijesti” daily newspaper on April 15. Since the coronavirus outbreak, China has been accused many times of not responding promptly and not sharing information with the rest of the world and the World Health Organization (WHO).

In the interview, the Ambassador denied such and other claims, accusing the countries of conducting disinformation campaign against Beijing. For the reasons of objectively informing the public, we want to point out to a series of disinformation Mr. Jinn said. Note that we have previously sent our reaction to the interview to the editorial board of “Vijesti”, but it was not published. Read what the Chinese Ambassador did not say.

False dates

Speaking about the dates, the Ambassador stated that hospitals in Hubei Province reported three suspicious cases on December 27 and that they promptly informed WHO and other countries about that on January 3. That day, the national authorities in China reported to WHO 44, and not three patients with pneumonia of unknown etiology. Of the 44 cases reported, 11 were severely ill, while the remaining 33 patients were in stable condition.

In fact, the Chinese authorities informed that the first case of what we know today as coronavirus was registered on December 8, meaning long before December 27 as the Ambassador claimed.

Additionally, a study by the Chinese researchers published in The Lancet medical journal (which the Ambassador was referring to) says that the first person to be diagnosed with COVID-19 was on December 1, 2019, and that the person had no contact with the infamous market.

Wu Wenjuan, a senior doctor at Wuhan’s Jinyintan Hospital and one of the authors of the study, told the BBC Chinese Service that the patient was an elderly man who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease.

“He lived four or five buses from the market, and because he was sick, he basically didn’t go out,” Wu Wenjuan said.

South China Morning Post writes that the first case was registered as early as November 17, referring to the Government data.

“Hermetically sealed” transparency

The Ambassador states further that during the response process to the epidemic China showed openness and transparency, that they reacted on time, adding that the doubts on China’s figures came from typical disinformation.

When it comes to transparency from the beginning and sharing of information, the facts reveal different data. On December 30, Dr. Li Wenliang sent a message to a group of fellow doctors warning them about a possible outbreak of an illness that resembled SARS, urging them to take protective measures against the infection. Two days later, the Wuhan Public Security Bureau issued summons to Dr. Li, accusing him of spreading rumors. The same day, Dr. Li signed a statement acknowledging his misdemeanor and promising not to commit such acts in the future. Besides him, China arrested seven people more, accusing them of committing similar acts, and their destiny has been unknown.

In January, Dr. Li posted on Weibo, a Chinese social media, a video of him informing the public that on January 10 he had coughing attacks and got a fever the following day. In late January, on January 30 to be precise, he was diagnosed with the coronavirus, which he died of on February 7 at the age of 34. Even though the Chinese authorities accused Dr. Wenliang in January of spreading panic, today they are honoring him. At the beginning of April, he was named a martyr posthumously – it is the highest honor the Communist Party of China can bestow on a citizen killed working to serve the country.

Late response

Claims that China responded on time raised doubts in the whole world. Hence, a complete lockdown of Wuhan was imposed as late as January 23, seven weeks after the first coronavirus case. According to a statement of the city’s mayor Zhou Xianwang, five million people had left Wuhan by that time. The Chinese Ambassador accuses the world of disinforming, whereas he does not say in what way to understand the WHO’s announcement from January 14, when they posted on Twitter that the preliminary investigation conducted by the Chinese authorities did not find clear evidence of the coronavirus human-to-human transmission. The same day, Wuhan Health Commission announced that they found no evidence of human-to-human transmission of the virus. Six days later, on January 20, the chaos broke out when the Chinese services admitted for the first time that the virus may be transmitted human-to-human, and three days after that, the lockdown of Wuhan had begun.

According to the AP, the top Chinese officials did not warn the public for six days, after having determined that they were facing the novel coronavirus pandemic.

During those six days, the city of Wuhan, where the disease originated from, hosted a mass banquet for tens of thousands of people, and millions began traveling through for Lunar New Year celebrations.

President of China Xi Jinping warned the citizens on the seventh day, January 20; but by that time, more than 3,000 people had been infected, according to internal documents obtained by the AP and expert estimates.

The number of cases (not)true

Doubts on the coronavirus active cases and deaths in China are a frequent topic of many world media. This makes sense, because, until today, China has a lower rate of infection and deaths than the United States, Spain, Italy, France, Germany, and Great Britain, even though the population of it alone is double than of all these countries together. The C.I.A.’s report shows too that the rate of infection and deaths in China is higher, claiming that the Chinese authorities do not know the reach of the virus spread, and that “the bureaucrats in the city of Wuhan have been lying its headquarters in Beijing and lowered the infection and death rates, fearful of being punished”. When it comes to figures – Hubei Province took the worst hit at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, and on February 9 it reported the increase of cases by 27 percent. In the following two days, the rate was 20 and 22 percent respectively. However, figures show a huge jump of 742 percent, i.e. there were 14,000 newly infected, after which the figures suddenly dropped. The Chinese authorities justified the jump by changing the counting method. However, the changes were introduced seven days earlier. An alternative explanation for a lower rate of cases after February 12 may be found on a day after the date, when the party heads were removed both in Hubei Province and Wuhan, the Economist reveals. A similar scenario occurred in Shandong Province. Before the removal in the local justice department, the rate of infection in one prison jumped from two to 200 prisoners, whereas a day after the election of new heads, the two cases were reported.

Graphic showing a relation between the drop in the rate of infection and the political events in the country. Source: The Economist

Almost all the most developed counties of the world have been doubting the Chinese transparency since the beginning of the epidemic, with ever-increasing widespread voices that Beijing ought to pay reparations for the slow response to coronavirus and hiding of information. Even though Beijing went on the diplomatic offensive by sending aid to many countries and by claiming it fought out successfully the coronavirus, which many, including the French President, do not believe, it is certain that the detailed investigation on everything is waiting for its closure.