Chinese President Hu Jintao orders an end to the Chinese government cover-up of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
Chinese media reports say Mr Hu, who assumed power in March, warned government departments and health authorities to accurately report on the epidemic, and to keep the public informed.
It is pathetic that the President of China has to order the various agencies of the Chinese government to stop lying about a disease epidemic.
He demanded that there be no cover-ups, warning officials ``not to withhold any information and delay its release''.
One indicator to watch in response to his order is whether there is a large surge in reported SARS cases in Beijing. If the Beijing military hospitals come clean the number of reported SARS cases in Beijing should surge to at least 100 and possibly more. With all the attention drawn to unreported SARS cases in Beijing military hospitals they will have some pressure on them to admit the truth. However, in more remote areas which have fewer foreigners poking around the lower level officials may still think they can get away with keeping SARS cases secret.
Chinese leaders complain that lower-level officials routinely hide accidents and falsify economic data and other information in order to make themselves look better. The politically influential military, which runs its own hospitals and other facilities, routinely refuses to co-operate with civilian authorities.
The propensity to cover up bad news is inherent to the nature of the Chinese system of government.
Update: There are signs that the Chinese President's order is going to have some effect. NBC News says China is going to up its confirmed SARS case count in Beijing to 300.
April 18 — A well-placed Chinese source has told NBC News the government of China will announce Saturday that the number of confirmed SARS cases in Beijing is 300, more than eight times what it currently is reporting.
Keep in mind that even if Chinese officials become completely honest in reporting SARS cases there are still large numbers of people in rural areas of China with little or no access to skilled health care workers capable of making a diagnosis of SARS infection. Therefore the reported Chinese SARS rate will remain well below the actual rate with the underreporting highest in the poorest regions.
|Share |||By Randall Parker at 2003 April 18 11:51 AM Culture Open Versus Closed Societies|