As the Chinese regime attempts to contain the novel coronavirus from spreading, at least 813 police officers and their close family members at the center of the epidemic in Hubei Province have been infected with the virus, according to an internal government document obtained by The Epoch Times.
These officers are at the frontlines of the authorities’ response to the outbreak, tasked with controlling public opinion to ensure it aligns with the regime’s narrative.
The document, dated Feb. 21, details how officials in Hubei are trying to cope with the crisis.
The tally includes 371 police officers, 61 retired officers, and 381 officers’ family members. Another 277 officers are suspected to have the virus. At least four officers have died.
The data, though limited, offers yet another glimpse of the grim outlook authorities face.
Controlling the Narrative
Chinese police are at the forefront of the Chinese regime’s efforts to maintain the official narrative about the outbreak. The Chinese regime commonly uses the euphemism “maintaining social stability.”
As of Feb. 21, as many as 120,000 police officers have been stationed at all of the country’s designated hospitals for treating coronavirus patients, the nation’s police chief Li Jingsheng said at a Feb. 21 press conference. The police will stand guard round the clock to protect doctors at the facilities, Li said, explaining that some emotional coronavirus patients and their relatives may attack medical workers when they feel exasperated.
The document, however, revealed that the officers’ tasks go far beyond what Li described.
Hubei alone has mobilized roughly 40,000 police amid the outbreak. The police force are assigned to 244 designated hospitals, 678 fever clinics, and 1,958 quarantine sites. They have arrested 84 people over outbreak-related criminal offenses, placed 39 people under home surveillance, detained 1,344 without trial, and issued other forms of punishment for 2,525 others.
Guns and Pens
Wuhan, the capital of Hubei, has been recruiting police forces from other cities, according to videos and Chinese media reports. Qin Han, a New York-based political affairs commentator, said the move either indicates that Wuhan’s police force was severely reduced due to infections, or that there is a growing need to maintain power and stability.
The province has also hired over 1,600 censors to erase “sensitive” information about the virus on the internet.
The Feb. 21 internal document revealed that censors have deleted 3,248 “sensitive” or “harmful” posts and issued 199,000 “positive” posts about the authorities. Meanwhile, the police have identified 610 cases of “rumors” and reprimanded 601 people involved.
The document stressed the importance of enhancing the security presence around government offices and virus treatment centers, strengthening internet censorship to eliminate rumors, and finding solutions for possible “stability-related” incidents.
“Police hold rifles, and rifles and pens complement each other,” Qin told The Epoch Times. “When lies don’t work, [police] resort to violence. When someone tries to speak about truths that go over the authorities’ limit, they will be put down.”
Li Wenliang, a doctor in Wuhan who tried to warn his medical peers about the dangers of the virus in late December, was tracked down by police. They accused him of making false statements and forced him to confess to the offense of “rumor-mongering.” He later died of the disease after contracting it from a patient he was treating.
Two outspoken citizen journalists, Chen Qiushi and Fang Bin, have also gone missing after posting videos documenting the outbreak in Wuhan. After Fang captured footage of a van at a local hospital with eight dead bodies inside, police broke into his apartment and took him away. He has not been heard from since.
Qin said that such arrests are common. “The Chinese Communist Party, as usual, would not apologize [for its missteps] … if someone protests and raises a different voice, their first reaction is to arrest them.”
He noted, however, that such forcible measures could backlash. “With more problems brewing, the sentiment challenging them [the Party] could only grow stronger,” he said.
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