MONTREAL: Experts have criticized Chinese President Xi Jinping for concealing, destroying and fabricating information about the rampant spread of COVID-19 and suppressing the data by silencing and criminalising dissent.
In a report published by The Times of Israel, Human Rights Advocate Irwin Cotler said, "There is authoritative and compelling evidence -- including a study from the University of Southampton -- that if interventions in China had been conducted three weeks earlier, the transmission of COVID-19 could have been reduced by 95 per cent".
The daily reported that Dr. Ai Fen, Director of the Emergency Department at the Central Hospital of Wuhan disseminated information about the novel virus to several doctors, one of them being Li Wenliang in late December last year. Wenliang passed away after contracting the contagion in February while Ai has recently disappeared.
"On January 1, 2020, Dr. Li Wenliang -- the "hero" and "awakener" -- was reprimanded for spreading rumours, and was summoned to sign a statement accusing him of making false statements that disturbed the public order. Seven other people were arrested on similar charges. Their fate is still unknown," the report said.
Meanwhile, on January 4, Dr. Ho Pak Leung -- president of the University of Hong Kong's Centre for Infection -- had indicated that it was highly probable that COVID-19 can spread from human-to-human, and urged the implementation of a strict monitoring system, the experts stated.
However, despite prior indications, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission declared that preliminary investigations did not show any clear evidence of human-to-human transmission for weeks later.
On January 14, the World Health Organisation (WHO) reaffirmed China's statement, and followingly on January 22, Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus praised the Chinese Communist Party's handling of the outbreak and the so-called timely intervention.
On January 23, Chinese authorities announced their first steps to quarantine Wuhan. By then, it was too late. Millions of people had already visited Wuhan and left during the Chinese New Year, and a significant number of Chinese citizens had travelled overseas as asymptomatic carriers.
In wake of the above developments, the report said that the world would have been more prepared and able to combat COVID-19 "had it not been for President Xi's authoritarian regime's widespread and systematic pattern of sanitizing the massive domestic repression of its people."
China's silence and suppression cost Italy -- which has now become the epicenter of Europe's COVID-19 spread -- witnessing a death toll of 12 per cent, more than double that of China's, followed by Spain with a fatality rate of 9 per cent.
While global infections continue to surge relentlessly upwards, China, ironically, is now propagating itself to be safe than the majority of other countries.
The South Korean model -- where it pioneered drive-through COVID-19 testing centers collecting swabs from over 15,000 people a day, and quarantining the infected immediately thereafter -- is one of the only precedents to significantly reduce the number of infected cases.
The experts said, "In a word, President Xi's government has exacerbated the world's COVID-19 health and systemic crises, which has paved the way for one of the greatest humanitarian crises in history."
Confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus around the world have surpassed 2 million, according to the US-based Johns Hopkins University.