Poor countries are suffering from the coronavirus because of the Chinese Communist Party’s negligence and repression, a cardinal from Burma said on Thursday.
“The Chinese regime led by the all-powerful Xi Jinping and the CCP — not its people — owes us all an apology and compensation for the destruction it has caused,” Cardinal Muang Bo, Archbishop of Yangon, wrote in an op-ed published April 2 by UCA News.
Cardinal Bo, who is head of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences, denounced the Chinese regime Thursday for withholding information about the coronavirus and punishing doctors and journalists who attempted to alert the world of the virus’ potential danger.
“China as a country is a great and ancient civilization that has contributed so much to the world throughout history, but this regime is responsible, through its criminal negligence and repression, for the pandemic sweeping through our streets today,” Cardinal Bo said.
“Let me be clear — it is the CCP that has been responsible, not the people of China, and no one should respond to this crisis with racial hatred toward the Chinese. Indeed, the Chinese people were the first victims of this virus and have long been the primary victims of their repressive regime. They deserve our sympathy, our solidarity and our support. But it is the repression, the lies and the corruption of the CCP that are responsible,” he said.
The cardinal cited multiple examples of whistleblowers silenced by the CCP’s censorship regime.
“Doctors who tried to raise the alarm — such as Dr. Li Wenliang in Wuhan Central Hospital who issued a warning to fellow medics Dec. 30 — were ordered by police to ‘stop making false comments.’ Dr. Li, a 34-year-old ophthalmologist, was told he would be investigated for ‘spreading rumors’ and was forced by police to sign a confession. He later died after contracting coronavirus,” Bo wrote.
The Chinese government has come under criticism for withholding coronavirus information from the international community. On April 1, Bloomberg reported that U.S. intelligence found evidence that China underreported the number of confirmed coronavirus cases and deaths.
The cardinal said that China’s withholding of information from its own citizens and resistance to transparency with the global community has contributed to the worldwide spread of the coronavirus, with disastrous consequences for the poor, especially in Southeast Asian countries neighboring China.
“In my own country, Myanmar, we are extremely vulnerable. Bordering China, where COVID-19 first began, we are a poor nation without the health and social care resources that more developed nations have. Hundreds of thousands of people in Myanmar are displaced by conflict, living in camps in the country or on our borders without adequate sanitation, medicines or care. In such overcrowded camps the social distancing measures implemented by many countries are impossible to apply,” the cardinal said.
“The healthcare systems in the most advanced countries in the world are overwhelmed, so imagine the dangers in a poor and conflict-ridden country like Myanmar,” said Bo.
Infectious diseases physician and Harvard Medical School professor Richard Malley and the president of International Crisis Group Robert Malley have warned of the “massive death tolls, economic meltdowns and skyrocketing unemployment and poverty” developing countries could face as a result of the pandemic.
United Nations officials have likewise stated that an outbreak in the world’s refugee camps appears imminent.
COVID-19, first documented in China’s Hubei Province in December 2019, has now spread to 203 countries worldwide. As of April 2, there have been more than 2,000 cases documented within the Philippines, India, Malaysia, Pakistan, and other developing countries.
Bo called on China to write off the debts of other countries to help cover the cost of COVID-19.
On March 29, Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, archbishop of Manila and prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, also appealed to rich countries to forgive the debts of poor countries, who are struggling to fund a coronavirus response. The Filipino cardinal said the money governments spend on military and security could go toward masks and ventilators.
The Burmese cardinal acknowledged that many governments in different parts of the world have been criticized for failing to prepare after the coronavirus first emerged in Wuhan, China. However, he said, China bears primary responsibility as there is strong concern that the Chinese regime’s official statistics downplayed the scale of infection within China and subsequently published propaganda accusing other countries of causing the pandemic.
“Lies and propaganda have put millions of lives around the world in danger,” he said.
Bo has led the Burmese Archdiocese of Yangon since 2003. Pope Francis made him a cardinal in 2015.
The cardinal said that the CCP’s response to the coronavirus is “symptomatic of its increasingly repressive nature.”
“In recent years, we have seen an intense crackdown on freedom of expression in China. Lawyers, bloggers, dissidents and civil society activists have been rounded up and have disappeared. In particular, the regime has launched a campaign against religion, resulting in the destruction of thousands of churches and crosses and the incarceration of at least one million Uyghur Muslims in concentration camps,” he said. “And Hong Kong, once one of Asia’s most open cities, has seen its freedoms, human rights and the rule of law dramatically eroded.”
“Christians believe, in the words of Paul the Apostle, that ‘the truth will set you free.’ Truth and freedom are the twin pillars on which all our nations must build surer and stronger foundations,” Cardinal Bo said.