Li Wenliang Was Not an Outlier: Chinese Communists Punished at Least 587 for Speaking Out on Covid-19

(p. A6) At least seven people over the past week have been threatened, detained or arrested after casting doubt over the government’s account of the deaths of Chinese soldiers during a clash last year with Indian troops. Three of them are being detained for between seven and 15 days. The other four face criminal charges, including one man who lives outside China.

“The internet is not a lawless place,” said the police notices issued in their cases. “Blasphemies of heroes and martyrs will not be tolerated.”

Their punishment might have gone unnoticed if it weren’t for an online database of speech crimes in China. A simple Google spreadsheet open for all to see, it lists nearly 2,000 times when the government punished people for what they said online and offline.

The list — which links directly to publicly issued verdicts, police notices and official news reports over the past eight years — is far from complete. Most punishment takes place behind closed doors.

Still, the list paints a bleak picture of a government that punishes its citizens for the slightest hint of criticism. It shows how random and merciless China’s legal system can be when it punishes its citizens for what they say, even though freedom of speech is written into China’s Constitution.

. . .

(p. B3) Perhaps the most depressing items are those about people who were punished for what they said about the Covid-19 pandemic. On top of the list is Dr. Li Wenliang, who was reprimanded on Jan. 1, 2020, along with seven others for trying to warn the country about the coronavirus. He died of the virus in early February last year and is now remembered as the whistle-blower who tried to warn the world about the outbreak. But the spreadsheet lists 587 other cases.

For the full story, see:

Li Yuan. “Spreadsheet on Censorship Shows China’s Human Toll.” The New York Times (Saturday, February 27, 2021): B1 & B3.

(Note: ellipses added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Feb. 26, 2021, and has the title “China Persecutes Those Who Question ‘Heroes.’ A Sleuth Keeps Track.”)

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