Connect with us
Advertisement

The Corona Coronation (Part 7)

Who was Covid-19’s Patient Zero, defined as the first carrier of a communicable disease in an outbreak of related cases?

Since the disease at least officially originated in China, and which scenario China has not unequivocally admitted to but has not spiritedly refuted anyway, Patient Zero ought to be a Wuhan-based Chinese.

What Beijing has readily told the world is of Covid-19’s first fatality, a 61-year-old going by the name Zhen, in all probability a non de plume. Zhen is said to have contracted Covid-19 during one of his routine visits to the Wuhan Seafood Wholesale Market.

He died at Wuhan Puren Hospital on the night of January 10, 2020, at a time when 41 people had been diagnosed with the disease and at least seven were in critical condition according to the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission.

Zhen, however, was not Patient Zero. According to the January 24, 2020 edition of The Lancet, the world’s leading medical journal, Patient Zero had no connection whatsoever with the now infamous seafood market.

The Lancet report was informed by a team of researchers, seven of whom worked at Wuhan’s Jinyintan hospital, which was the first hospital to be designated for patients with Covid-19. The researchers analysed data from the 41 patients with confirmed infections and who had showed an onset of symptoms up to January 2.

They stressed that Patient Zero had never been to the seafood market and that “there was also no epidemiological link between the first patient and the later cases”.

Sadly (or was it decorously?), The Lancet provided no hint as to who the real Patient Zero was. It was not until three months later that her name was put out into the global public domain although she had long been named in maverick Beijing newspapers.

PATIENT ZERO WAS A LADY KNOW AS HUANG

Ever heard of the so-called Five Eyes? It is the world’s oldest intelligence partnership which came into being in 1946, its membership comprising of the major Anglophone countries, namely the US, Canada, the UK, Australia, and New Zealand.

In a Five Eyes memo passed to Australia’s The Daily Telegraph towards the end of April this year, Patient Zero was confirmed as Huang Yan Ling, a scientist at the Wuhan Institute of Virology and who was believed to have succumbed to the effects of Covid-19.

She is said to have contracted the disease “during a botched experiment” in the institute’s P4 laboratory.  The memo was a summary of a more detailed 15-page dossier.

The name Huang Yan Ling first popped up in Beijing newspapers in January and shortly thereafter went viral in China’s blogosphere. Huang was a female graduate from Jiantong University and enrolled for a Master’s programme at the Wuhan Institute of Virology in 2012, which she completed in 2015.

At first, the institute denied she ever schooled or worked there and even went to the extent of removing all her particulars from the institutional website. They subsequently owned up to her association with them but insisted she was still alive and kicking. They have lately made a unabashed U-turn, saying she’s now unaccounted for.

Certainly, if Huang was still in good health to date, the government would have   forced her to emerge and make a public statement live on television. The fact that they have not done so demonstrates quite clearly that she is indeed deceased.

CHINA’S DUCKING AND DIVING

The Five Eyes report pans China for obfuscating whistleblower reports, censoring Internet reports in a cover-up, and withholding important scientific information – including virus samples – to help other countries treat the disease in the early stages of what would eventually become the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Lancet endorses this view too: it informs us that the symptoms of Covid-19 were first made known to the Wuhan authorities on December 1, but they were reluctant to own up to the existence of the disease till December 31st, when they announced that 27 people were down with a pneumonia-like ailment.

On its part, the central government in Beijing suppressed information on Covid-19 for six weeks spanning December and January and only officially acknowledged it on January 20. Even then, the acknowledgement was far from wholehearted. The authorities continued to gag doctors and others for raising red flags and were unstinting in playing down the dangers to the public of the otherwise deadly disease.

For instance, when Professor Zhang Yongzhen’s Shanghai laboratory published Covid-19’s genomic sequence on January 11 to allow the scientists around the world to study the virus, the following day the laboratory was shut down for what was spun as “rectification” – whatever that meant.

And when on January  26 a group of 9 “experts” arrived in Wuhan to review the criteria for disseminating information about the virus to the global population, they were deputised by the ruling Communist Party’s propaganda Tsar, whose brief, clearly, was to sanitise the information and slant the narrative to Xi Jinping’s liking.

LI AND OTHERS SOUND THE ALARM

Arguably the earliest tipsters to go public about the existence of Covid-19 in China were Lu Xiaohong, Hie Linka, and Li Wenliang, all medical doctors.

Lu, the director of gastroenterology at Wuhan Municipal Hospital, on Christmas Day told the state-run China Youth Daily that a number of medical workers at two hospitals in Wuhan had presented with a mysterious pneumonia-like illness. Lu privately sent word to a school located near another major market about her concerns.

On December 30, Hie, an oncologist at Wuhan Union Hospital, and Li, an ophthalmologist at Wuhan Central University, set about alerting the public on WeChat, the ubiquitous social media platform of China, about the same come-from-nowhere disease.

Hie enjoined people to “wear masks and ventilate areas” after learning from her colleagues in the hospital’s  respiratory unit that  many patients, all of whom had recently been to the same seafood and live animal market in Wuhan,  had been admitted there with pneumonia-like symptoms whose cause was as yet unknown.

But it was Li’s situation that ended in tragedy and therefore became the most topical across the globe. Targeting about 150 of his fellow students in a closed WeChat group, Li notified them about seven patients who had visited the Wuhan Seafood Wholesale Market and were quarantined in his hospital after showing SARS-like symptoms.

He would later tell The New York Times that, “we needed to be ready for it mentally; take protective measures” and CNN that, “I only wanted to remind my university classmates to be careful”.

R.I.P. DR LI

The screenshots of Li’s postings, which were under his real name, inevitably went viral and the outcome was exactly as had predicted. “I realised it was out of my control and I would probably be punished,” he would later harp back.

However, it was not until two days after his WeChat comments that the Public Safety Bureau of Wuhan, a branch of the national police, pounced. Li was one of the people rounded up in the dead of night in a swoop on eight medical staff, who included Hie, for “spreading rumours online that disturbed the public order”. He was made to sign a statement acknowledging guilt of a misdemeanour which constituted illegal behaviour.

But the iron-willed, heart-of-oak Li simply wasn’t giving up.  Although the police deleted all his WeChat posts and even closed his account, he resorted to uploading remonstrative videos on his blog straight after his release.

Li’s days nonetheless were numbered. Officially, he contracted Covid-19 from a woman suffering from glaucoma that he treated on January 10. He passed away on February 7. The probability that he was tactfully eliminated by the country’s intelligence apparatus cannot be entirely discounted given China’s penchant to harshly crack the whip on perceived dissidents. He was 34 years old and was survived by a son and a pregnant wife.

Li’s highly suspicious death sparked outrage throughout China, prompting the National Supervisory Commission, the country’s highest anti-corruption agency, to declare that they would conduct investigations into his demise.  There has never been a word from them on the matter four months hence.

HE CASE OF AI FEN

In March this year, the Xi Jinping regime was at it again. One Ai Fen, the head of the emergency department at Wuhan Central hospital, simply went out of circulation, which is odd for a medical doctor working for a government-owned hospital.

Apparently, Ai’s sin was to criticise government for heavy-handed censorship of the Covid-19 outbreak in the country thereby delaying the adoption of measures to combat it and stem its spread in an interview with a popular magazine.

Ai was one of the eight doctors alluded to above who were the first to blow the trumpet on the emergence of the disease.

The Chinese authorities moved rather swiftly to muzzle the interview. The issue containing the interview, published on March 10, was quickly removed from newsstands. The interview was also deleted from the magazine’s website but was previously copied by Internet users who continued to circulate it.

Maybe Huang’s death was natural, but I’m willing to bet you my very last penny that Li’s and Ai’s were blatant eliminations by a near-Stalinist regime that scarcely tolerates going against the grain.

Continue Reading

Opinions

The Taiwan Question: China ramps up military exercises to rebuff US provocations

18th August 2022

US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan has violated the One-China policy, and caused the escalation of tensions across the Taiwan Strait. Experts and political observers across the spectra agree that Pelosi’s actions and subsequent pronouncements by US President Joe Biden gave impetus to an already simmering tension in the Taiwan Strait, provoking China to strengthen its legitimate hold on the Taiwan Strait waters, which the US and Taiwan deem as ‘international waters’.

Pelosi’s visit to China’s Taiwan region has been heavily criticised across the globe, with China arguing that this is a serious violation of the one-China principle and the provisions of the three China-US Joint Communiqués.  In response to this reckless move which seriously undermined China’s sovereignty, and interfered in China’s internal affairs, the expectation is for China to give a firm response. Pelosi visit violated the commitments made by the U.S. side, and seriously jeopardized peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.

To give context to China’s position over Taiwan region, the history behind gives us perspective. It is also important to note that the history between China and Taiwan is well documented and the US has always recognized it.

The People’s Republic of China recognises Taiwan as its territory. It has always been  the case even before the Nationalist Republic of China government fled to the previously Japanese-ruled Island after losing the civil war on the mainland in 1949. According to literature that threat was contained for decades — first with a military alliance between the US and the ROC on Taiwan, and after Washington switched diplomatic recognition to the PRC in 1979 by the US One China policy, which acknowledges Beijing’s position that Taiwan is part of One China. Effectively, Taiwan’s administration was transferred to the Republic of China from Japan after the Second World War in 1945, along with the split between the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Republic of China (ROC) as a consequence of the Chinese Civil War. Disregarding this history, as the US is attempting to do, will surely initiate some defence reaction on the side of China to affirm its sovereignty.

However, this history was undermined since Taiwan claimed to democratise in the 1990s and China has grown ever more belligerent. Furthermore, it is well documented that the Biden administration, following the Trump presidency, has made subtle changes in the way it deals with Taipei, such as loosening restrictions on US officials meeting Taiwanese officials – this should make China uneasy. And while the White House continues to say it does not support Taiwanese independence, Biden’s words and actions are parallel to this pledge because he has warned China that the US would intervene militarily if China attacked Taiwan – another statement that has provoked China.

Pelosi, in her private space, would know that her actions amount to provocation of China. This act of aggression by the USA seriously undermines the virtues of sovereignty and territorial integrity which has a huge potential to destabilize not only the Taiwan Strait but the whole of the Asia- Pacific region.  The Americans know very well that their provocative behavior is deliberately invoking the spirit of separatism masqueraded as “Taiwan independence”.  The US is misled to think that by supporting separatism of Taiwan from China that would give them an edge over China in a geopolitics. This is what one Chinese diplomat said this week: “The critical point is if every country put their One-China policy into practice with sincerity, with no compromise, is going to guarantee the peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait.”  Therefore, it was in the wake of US House speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan, that China, in a natural response revealed plans for unprecedented military exercises near the island, prompting fears of a crisis in the Taiwan Strait and the entire Asia-Pacific region. The world community must promote and foster peace, this may be achieved when international laws are respected. It may also happen when nations respect the sovereignty of another. China may be in a better space because it is well capacitated to stake its territorial integrity, what about a small nation, if this happens to it?

As to why military exercises by Beijing; it is an expected response because China was provoked by the actions of Pelosi. To fortify this position, Chinese President, Xi signed a legal basis for China’s People’s Liberation Army to “safeguard China’s national sovereignty, security and development interests”. The legal basis will also allow military missions around disaster relief, humanitarian aid and peacekeeping. In addition the legal changes would allow troops to “prevent spillover effects of regional instabilities from affecting China, secure vital transport routes for strategic materials like oil, or safeguard China’s overseas investments, projects and personnel.  It then follows that President Xi’s administration cannot afford to look weak under a US provocation. President Xi must protector China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, of which Taiwan is a central part.” Beijing is very clear on One-China Policy, and expects all world players to recognize and respect it.

The People’s Liberation Army has made it clear that it has firepower that covers all of Taiwan, and it can strike wherever it wants. This sentiments have been attributed to Zhang Junshe, a researcher at the PLA Navy Research Institute. Zheng further said, “We got really close to Taiwan. We encircled Taiwan. And we demonstrated that we can effectively stop intervention by foreign forces.” This is a strong reaction from China to warn the US against provocation and violation of the One-China Policy.

Beijing’s military exercises will certainly shake Taiwan’s confidence in the sources of its economic and political survival. The potential for an effective blockade threatens the air and shipping routes that support Taiwan’s central role in global technology supply chains. Should a humanitarian situation arise in Taiwan, the blame would squarely be on the US.

As China’s military exercises along the Taiwan Strait progress and grow, it remains that the decision by Nancy Pelosi to visit China’s Taiwan region gravely undermined peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, and sent a wrong signal to “Taiwan independence” separatist forces. This then speaks to international conventions, as the UN Secretary-General António Guterres explicitly stressed that the UN remains committed to the UN General Assembly Resolution 2758. The centerpiece is the one-China principle, namely, there is but one China in the world, the government of the People’s Republic of China is the sole legal government representing the whole of China, and Taiwan is a part of China. It must be noted that the US and the US-led NATO countries have selectively applied international law, this has been going on unabated. There is a plethora of actions that have collapsed several states after they were attacked under the pretext of the so-called possession of weapons of mass destruction illuminating them as threats – and sometimes even without any valid reason. to blatantly launch military strikes and even unleash wars on sovereign countrie

Continue Reading

Opinions

Internal party-democracy under pressure

21st June 2022

British novelist, W. Somerset Maugham once opined: “If a nation values anything more than freedom, it will lose its freedom; and the irony of it is that if it is comfort or money that it values more, it will lose that too.”

The truism in these words cannot be underestimated, especially when contextualizing against the political developments in Botswana. We have become a nation that does not value democracy, yet nothing represent freedom more than democracy. In fact, we desire, and value winning power or clinging to power more than anything else, even if it harms the democratic credentials of our political institutions. This is happening across political parties — ruling and opposition.

As far as democracy is concerned, we are regressing. We are becoming worse-off than we were in the past. If not arrested, Botswana will lose its status as among few democratic nations in the Africa. Ironically, Botswana was the first country in Africa to embrace democracy, and has held elections every five years without fail since independence.

We were once viewed as the shining example of Africa. Those accolades are not worth it any more. Young democracies such as South Africa, with strong institutions, deserves to be exalted. Botswana has lost faith in democracy, and we will pay a price for it. It is a slippery slope to dictatorship, which will bring among other excess, assault on civil liberties and human rights violations.

Former President, Festus Mogae once stated that Botswana’s democracy will only become authentic, when a different party, other than the Botswana Democratic Party (BDP) wins elections, and when the President of such party is not from Serowe.

Although many may not publicly care to admit, Mogae’s assertion is true. BDP has over the years projected itself as a dyed-in-the-wool proponent of democracy, but the moment its stay in power became threatened and uncertain, it started behaving in a manner that is at variance with democratic values.  This has been happening over the years now, and the situation is getting worse by the day.

Recently, the BDP party leadership has been preaching compromise and consensus candidates for 2024 general elections. Essentially, the leadership has lost faith in the Bulela Ditswe dispensation, which has been used to selected party candidates for council and parliament since 2003. The leadership is discouraging democracy because they believe primary elections threaten party unity. It is a strange assertion indeed.

Bulela Ditswe was an enrichment of internal party democracy in the sense that it replaced the previous method of selection of candidates known as Committee of 18, in which a branch committee made of 18 people endorsed the representatives. While it is true that political contest can divide, the ruling party should be investing in political education and strengthening in its primary elections processes. Democracy does not come cheap or easy, but it is valuable.

Any unity that we desire so much at the expense of democracy is not true unity. Like W. Somerset Maugham said, democracy would be lost in the process, and ultimately, even the unity that was desired would eventually be lost too. Any solution that sacrifice democracy would not bring any results in the long run, except misery.

We have seen that also in opposition ranks. The Umbrella for Democratic Change (UDC) recently indicated that its incumbent Members of Parliament (MPs) should not be challenged for their seats. While BDP is sacrificing democracy to stay in power, UDC is sacrificing democracy to win power. It is a scary reality given the fact that both parties – ruling and opposition — have embraced this position and believe democracy is the hindrance to their political ambitions.

These current reality points to one thing; our political parties have lost faith in democracy. They desire power more than, the purpose of power itself. It is also a crisis of leadership across the political divide, where we have seen dissenting views being met with persecution. We have seen perverting of political process endorsed by those in echelons of power to manipulate political outcomes in their favour.

Democracy should not be optional, it should be mandatory. Any leader proposing curtailing of democracy should be viewed with suspicion, and his adventures should be rejected before it is too late. Members of political parties, as subscribers of democracy, should collectively rise to the occasion to save their democracy from self-interest that is becoming prevalent among Botswana political parties.

The so-called compromise candidates, only benefits the leadership because it creates comforts for them. But for members, and for the nation, it is causing damage by reversing the gains that have been made over the years. We should reject leaders who only preach democracy in word, but are hesitant to practice it.

Continue Reading

Opinions

The Big Deal About Piracy

21st June 2022
piracy

Piracy of all kinds continues to have a massive impact on the global creative industry and the economies of the countries where it thrives.

One of the biggest misconceptions around piracy is that an individual consumer’s piracy activities, especially in a market the size of Botswana’s, is only a drop in the pool of potential losses to the different sectors of the economy piracy affects.

When someone sitting in Gaborone, Botswana logs onto an illegal site to download King Richard online, they don’t imagine that their one download will do anything to the production house’s pocket or make a dent in the actors’ net worth. At best, the sensitivity towards this illegal pirating activity likely only exists when contemplating going about pirating a local musician’s music or a short film produced locally.

The ripple effects of piracy at whatever scale reach far beyond what the average consumer could ever imagine. Figures released by software security and media technology company, Irdeto, show that users in five major African territories made approximately 17,4 million total visits to the top 10 identified piracy sites on the internet.

The economic impact of this on the creative industry alone soars to between 40 and 97.1 billion dollars, according a 2022 Dataprot study. In addition, they estimate that “illegally streamed copyrighted content consumes 24% of global bandwidth”.

As Botswana’s creative industry remains relatively slight on the scale of comparison to industries such as Nollywood and Nilewood where the creative industry contributes a huge proportion to West and East Africa’s respective GDPs, that does not imply that piracy activities in Botswana do not have a similar impact on our economy and the ability of our creative industry to grow.

When individuals make decisions to illegally consume content via internet streaming sites they believe they are saving money for themselves in the name of enjoying content they desire to consume. Although this is a personal choice that remains the prerogative of the consumer, looking beyond the fact that streaming on illegal content sites is piracy, the ripple effect of this decision also has an endless trail of impact where funds which could be used to grow the local creative industry through increased consumption, and revenue which would otherwise be fed back into Botswana’s economy are being diverted.

“Why can’t our local creative industry grow?” “Why don’t we see more home-grown films and shows in Botswana?” are questions constantly posed by those who consume television content in Botswana. The answer to this lies largely in the fact that Botswana’s local content needs an audience in order for it to grow. It needs support from government and entities which are in a position to fund and help the industry scale greater heights.

Any organisational body willing to support and grow the local creative industry needs to exist and operate in an economy which can support its mandates. Content piracy is a cycle that can only be alleviated when consumers make wiser decisions around what they consume and how.

This goes beyond eradicating piracy activities in so far as television content is concerned. This extends to the importation and trade in counterfeit goods, resale of goods and services not intended for resale across the border, outside its jurisdiction, and more. All of these activities stunt the growth of an economy and make it nearly impossible for industries and sectors to propel themselves to places where they can positively impact society and reinvest into the country’s economy.

So what can be done to turn the tide here in Botswana in order to see our local production houses gain the momentum required to produce more, license more and expand their horizons? While those who enforce the law continue to work towards minimizing piracy activities, it’s imperative that as consumers we work to make their efforts easier by being mindful of how our individual actions play a role in preventing the success of our local creative networks and our economy’s growth.

Whether you are pirating a Hollywood Blockbuster, illegally streaming a popular Motswana artist’s music, or smuggling in an illegal decoder to view content restricted to South Africa only, your actions have an impact on how we as a nation will make our mark on the global landscape with local creative productions. Thembi Legwaila is Corporate Affairs Manager, MultiChoice Botswana

Continue Reading