International Policy Experts Blast China's Coronavirus Coverup, Call it Their 'Chernobyl Moment'

A group of international policy experts and politicians strongly criticized China's government in an open letter about its coverup and mishandling of the coronavirus pandemic, referring to the botched response as a "Chernobyl moment."

The letter was published Tuesday on the website of Canada's Macdonald-Laurier Institute, a national public policy think tank based in Ottawa. It was signed by more than 100 policy experts, lawmakers and academics who hail largely from North America, Europe and Oceania.

"While the exact source and spread of the virus are not clear yet the question of origin is highly important, for the people of China and for all humankind: only by understanding how this global disaster could emerge we can prevent it from happening again," the letter argued.

It went on to say that the origins of the global pandemic "are in a cover-up by CCP [Chinese Communist Party] authorities in Wuhan, Hubei province."

NEW: @_EuropeanValues, @HJS_Org, and MLI have launched a joint letter, signed by over 100 experts and senior politicians, arguing that China's #COVID19 cover-up and the CCP's rule by fear endanger Chinese citizens and the world. #cdnpoli #cdnfp https://t.co/XiaR5Txetf

— Macdonald-Laurier Institute (@MLInstitute) April 14, 2020

"We should never forget that China's Chernobyl moment was a self-inflicted wound. The CCP silenced Chinese doctors who wanted to warn other health professionals during the early stage of the outbreak," the letter said.

The authors outlined how various critics of the CCP response–including Chinese doctors, academics, journalists and a student–have all been silenced or have gone missing as Beijing has cracked down on dissent at home.

"The global pandemic forces us all to confront an inconvenient truth: by politicizing all aspects of life including people's health, continued autocratic one-party rule in the People's Republic of China has endangered everyone," they wrote. "Rather than trusting the CCP's intentions and accepting establishment academics' uncritical approval of the party-state's policies, we should pay greater attention to the voices of what can be termed 'unofficial' China."

Newsweek reached out to China's embassy in Washington, D.C. for comment, but they had not responded as of the time of publication.

Li Keqiang, premier of China, said in a Tuesday speech that his country had always aimed to put people first in its response to the coronavirus crisis.

"Facing this unexpected disease, the Chinese government has consistently followed a people-centered approach. China puts the life and health of all its people front and center. It has adhered to the principles of shoring up confidence, strengthening unity, following a science-based approach and taking targeted measures, and has all along been open and transparent," Li claimed.

"Thanks to the painstaking efforts of the whole country and society, China has achieved major progress in containing the outbreak, and life and work is returning to normal at a faster pace in our country," he added.

China coronavirus
A woman wearing a face mask walks in front of a drawing of Chinese President Xi Jinping on a wall at the Leishenshan Hospital that had offered beds for coronavirus patients in Wuhan, in China's central Hubei province on April 11 NOEL CELIS/AFP/Getty

China, which operates under one-party government rule, has faced substantial criticism from western leaders and human rights groups for its early efforts to suppress information about the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan. Whistleblower doctor Li Wenliang was one of the first to publicly raise concerns about the novel virus last year, but was detained and silenced by local authorities. Li later died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, and Chinese authorities have since offered a "solemn apology" to his family for how he was treated.

There is evidence suggesting China is also suppressing research into the origins of the coronavirus outbreak. While the precise origin of the virus remains unclear, since-deleted pages on Chinese university websites have shown that research on the virus must be reviewed and approved by China's Ministry of Science and Technology before it can be published. Reports have also suggested that China could be underreporting its number of confirmed cases and deaths from the virus.

While the virus first arose in China, the U.S., Spain, Italy, France, Germany and the United Kingdom have now all surpassed the East Asian nation with their numbers of reported confirmed cases. As of early Tuesday, China had reported just over 83,300 confirmed cases, 3,345 deaths and 78,200 recoveries.