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Unformatted text preview: WARNING CONCERNING COPYRIGHT RESTRICTIONS: The copyright law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code) governs the making of photocopies or other reproduction of copyrighted material. Under certain conditions specified in the law, libraries and archives are authorized to furnish a photocopy or other reproduction. One of these specified conditions is that the photocopy or reproduction is not to be used for any purpose other than private study, scholarship, or research. If electronic transmission of reserve material is used for purposes in excess of what constitutes “fair use”, that user may be liable for copyright infringement. By JOHN POMFRET ll’ashutglon Post Foreign Service BEIJING, May 12—In the days before April 17, the two new leaders of China struggledwith the profound question of whether to break with Communist Party orthodoxy and reveal the rampant spread of a dangerous virus. President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, who had been in power only since March 19, faced a grave crisis. If they did nothing, they risked loss of control over in- formation, lower economic growth and so‘ cial instability, If they acknowledged a coverup but failed to beat back the virus, they risked losing power to an elder leader and his allies waiting in the wings.‘ On April 17. Hu took the plunge. During an unSCheduled meeting of the all-powerful Politburo of the Communist Party, he ac- ' knowledged the government had lied about the disease and committed the Communist Party to an allout war against an epidemic sweeping the country and the capital. Three days later, China’s Communist lead— ership carried out its most significant polit— ical purge since the crackdown around Tia- nanmen Square in 1989. The capital's mayor and the countly’s health minister were fired for covering up the epidemic of severe acute respiratory syndrome. or STARS. What forced Hu‘s mind? Atem lint: la. fi't WILSON ( HM» RIC ID“ A Beijing policeman hugs a resident to celebrate the end of a two-week quarantine, imposed on tens of thousands to fight the spread of SARS. Outbreak Gave China’s Ho an Opening President’s Move on BARS Followed Immense Pressure at Home, Abroad dozens of people interviewed for this arti- cle, the new Chinese leadership faced im- mense pressures from abroad and inside the country. The World Health Organiza— tion and the foreign media clamored for ac- countability. A whistleblower exposed lies about the outbreak. China’s people began demanding basic rights to information. In the hospitals, the virus crept into the ranks of the Communist Party. And, unlike in times past, the drama was chronicled in real time on the Internet. The combined prr‘ssures on l‘iu reflect the tumultuous pace of change in contem- porary China, from technology that often m” 'i!l\z‘t._~i 9 (M. I "TUESDAY, MAY 13, 2003 R DM VA SARS OUTBREAK BY FREDERKC l BROWN—AG RANCE‘PRESSE EV FAN RUlUN-NEW CHINA NEWS AGDiCV VIA REUTERS _7 V’ “ April 3: At a news conference in Beijing, Health April 14: President Hu Jintao talks with workers at a AIJI . .. . ‘ Minister Zhang Wenkang declares that China is “safe” medical facility in Guangzhou, capital of the southern Wu and that “SARS has been placed under effective control. ” province of Guangdong, where the outbreak originated. mar ‘ii'l'SARS Provided penng fOI‘ Chi] ‘ CHINA, FromAl outpaces efforts to control information, to globalization and foreign influences ‘ that vie with Communist Party doctrine. Hu was an unlikely candidate to order an about-face in party policy. A 59-year- ‘old hydrologist, he spent more than a decade waiting to succeed Jiang Zemin as president and was known for one dis- w tinguishing characteristic—extreme caution. Moreover, more than half of ' ’ China’s all-powerful nine-member Stand— ing Committee of the Politburo, which Hu theoretically leads, were men loyal not to him but to his elderly predecessor. And Jiang, according to numerous Chi— ' nese sources, was not in favor of open- ness. However, the epidemic was such a shock to China’s system that it provided an opening for flu. Many Chinese have compared the outbreak of the virus to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks against the United States. Like President Bush, they said, President Hu was new in office and struggling for a purpose. Fighting the virus gave that to him. Whether the decision by Hu to con- front the outbreak will lead to China get- ting SARS under control is still not known. The disease is still spreading rapidly, although the rate of infection ap- pears to be slowing in Beijing. As of to- day, China had 5,013 SARS cases; 252 Couples bade farewell Sunday as some began quarantine at Naniing Normal University. The eastern city has ql people in China have died from the dis— people in an effort to stop SARS. Man at right uses a text-messaging phone, which is how much news of SARS ease. ued to impose a ban on news media re— Chinese langua ‘A Fatal Flu’ porting about the disease. messages that But on Feb. 11, the media silence was formation. Whil Severe acute respiratory syndrome broken. The Guangzhou Daily reported press reporting erupted in Guangdong province in that the virus had infected 305 people messagingwas southern China in November. Author- and that five had died. Sources said the In the first on ities knew about the spreading pathogen paper was able to defy Zhang' s blackout zapped a total 0 at the latest by Jan. 1, when a provincial because it had finagled permission from health team was dispatched to Heyuan the provincial government, which defied ., t ,m n-” Manhunt fir mp nrn. the orders of the party boss. Sources said each other, a 1 the same per-1'01 messages conct nn Tran Manv PLUPIL u. V-uuu. AAuVL uALu “um nu. um 62156. I ‘A Fatal Flu’ Severe acute respiratory syndrome erupted in Guangdong province in southern China in November. Authors ities knew about the spreading pathogen at the latest by Jan. 1, when a provincial ‘ health team was dispatched to Heyuan city, 100 miles northeast of the pro- vincial capital Guangzhou, to look into a case at the People’s Hospital there. A shrimp salesman had already infec- ted five people at the hospital and went on to infect scores more in hospitals in Guangzhou. It is unclear what author~ ities in the province did with this in- formation during the month of Janu— ary—whether they contacted the central government in Beijing, or what they said. But the provincial government waited almost a month to begin warning hospitals in Guangdong about the out- break. When it did, the warnings were not clear, doctors in the province said. The reason, Guangdong authorities later acknowledged, was that provincial au- thorities did not want concerns about the virus to cut into people's spending during the Chinese New Year holiday at the end of January. Provincial authorities said this type of behavior was justified. They were accus- tomed to maintaining a monopoly on power and information. On Feb. 7, the province reported the outbreak to central authorities in Bei- jing, according‘to the Southern Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party in the province. Chinese sources said the provincial report was read by members of the Politburo’s Standing " Committee in Beijing. Further evidenCe ' that the central government was aware of the virus’s spread came on Feb. 9, when, responding to the provincial re- port, the central government dispatched a team of health officials, led by Deputy Health Minister Ma Xiaowei, to look in- to the outbreak. Meanwhile, the virus was running wild, tearing through the ranks of health care workers. At one point, there were 900 people sick with SARS in Guang- zhou and 45 percent of them were health care professionals, doctors in the city said. News of the disease reached the Chi- nese public in Guangdong through a short-text message, sent to mobile ' phones in Guangzhou around noon on Feb. 8. “There is a fatal flu in Guang- zhou,” it read. This same message was resent 40 million times that day, 41 mil- lion times the next day and 45 million times on Feb. 10, according to the South- ern Weekend newspaper, published in Guangzhou. News spread as well through Internet chat rooms favored by China’s urban youth and emails about the virus, for- warded from person to person. The messages were an unprecedented challenge to the state’s monopoly on in- formation. J ' Despite the outbreak and worries about the virus among the public, editors at several newspapers said the provincial party secretary, Zhang Dejiang, contin- pcupn: Ill an cuul : IU aw]: gnu.“ luau m. "5|". Mac: a Lcnrlllvnaaglllg yuvuc, null.“ I; III!" Illuull "c": In an“; llllllall’ "CI-all“: |\IIIJ ued to impose a ban on news media re- porting about the disease. But on Feb. 11, the media silence was broken. The Guangzhou Daily reported that the virus had infected 305 people and that five had died. Sources said the paper was able to defy Zhang’s blackout because it had finagled permission from the provincial government, which defied the orders of the party boss. Sources said the permission to publish the news came directly from Huang Huahua, the pro— vincial governor, who is an ally of Presi- dent Hu. By contrast, Zhang is loyal to Hu’s predecessor, J iang. The day the Guangzhou Daily’s story appeared, the provincal government called a news conference. When journal- ists asked the provincial health chief why he had not reported the outbreak sooner, he said “it was fine not to tell the public" because he was not legally required to do so. Epidemics are considered state se— crets in China. In the early days of the 1949 revolution, reporting on epidemics was a crime because it called into ques- tion the quality of China’s system. Now, the government suppresses such reports because they could discourage foreign investment. Following the news conference, Zhang’s propaganda bureau again tried to control the media, But the tussle be— tween Zhang, the party secretary, and Huang, the governor, had created a space. Also, Chinese sources said, Hu stepped into the fray, ordering that Guangdong’s media be given room to re- port adequately about the virus. What followed was a week-long open period for the media in Guangdong province. Reports on the illness were fast and furi- ous and called into question the govem- ment’s handling of the outbreak. One weekly, 21st Century World Herald, de- voted eight pages of one edition to the topic. On Feb. 23, Zhang’s propaganda bu- I reau, arguing that too much criticism could influence “stability,” reimposed the media ban. By that time, SARS had spread to Hong Kong and would soon move around the world. The ban stayed in place for more than a month. A Torrent of Messages Quietly, Guangdong began to fight the outbreak. But because the party had banned any public talk of the spreading virus, doctors around the country had no idea of what was waiting for them. The microbe was on the move. In late February a jewelry dealer got sick in Guangdong and returned home to Shan- xi province, in central China, 1,000 miles to the north. She visited hospitals in the provincial capital, and then, unable to get decent care, went to Beijing’s No. 301 military hospital. By that time she had infected her husband and parents. By early March, her parents were dead. The virus began spreading in Beijing’s hospitals. On March 5, the National People’s Congress, China’s national legislature, opened in Beijing. The annual meeting was of particular importance because it BY HANG ZHISHUN‘NEW CHINA NEWS AGENCY VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS Former president Jiang Zemin, left, has claimed that China had made great strides against SARS, contrary to remarks by his successor, Hu lintao. marked the beginning of a new govem- ment, with a new president, Hu, and pre- mier, Wen. The government banned all negative news reports during the legisla- tive session, wanting to ensure that all eyes were on the tightly choreographed political succession from the elder gener- ation of Jiang to the new leaders. As the virus infected more and more people, the Health Ministry held a meet- ing with the heads of major Beijing hos- pitals on March 9 to inform them about SARS and to emphasize that they were not to report the spread of the disease to any media outlets, Chinese sources said. All the preparations, however, could not completely squash talk of the virus. It came up in an oblique way at the legis— lative session. A group of 30 delegates from Guangdong province offered a mo tion to establish a nationwide epidemic prevention network—a circuitous signal of their concern. The Southern Met- ropolitan News, a scrappy Guangzhou- based tabloid, published a piece on March 6 that contradicted the govem- ment line that the virus was under con- trol in Guangdong. The piece enraged Guangdong party chief Zhang, who forced the paper to pull its reporter from Beijing and threatened to shut the paper down, media sources said. Then, on March 15, three days before the close of the legislative session, the World Health Organization issued its first global warning about the virus. Chi- na’s central Propaganda Ministry or« dered China’s media not to report the warning. The editor-in-chief of a Beijing- based newspaper said the order came from the Politburo. “They knew very clearly how fast SARS was spreading,” he said. Still, information about the virus was filtering into mobile phones and comput- ers. Text messaging between cellular telephones has become an enormously popular way for Chinese to communicate because it is fast, and the nature of the Chinese language lends itself to 5 messages that can convey a lot 0 formation. While authorities had bai press reporting about the diseaSe, ‘ messaging was relatively uncensore In the first quarter of the year, Chi zapped a total of 26.5 billion messag each other, a 15 percent increase the same period last year. A lot of t messages concerned the US. war 1 on Iraq. Many more, Chinese tele' munications sources said, conce SARS. “Foreign reports: SARS reached Beijing,” read one. “Foreig ports: Two dead in Beijing from SA read another. While the word of the outbreak reaching people, the virus itself reaching into the Communist Party China’s government, adding a diffe more personal pressure on officia act. As of today, 11 officials from ce party agencies have died from SI Chinese sources said. A team of experts from the Vl Health Organization arrived in Be on March 23. Three days later, the nese government for the first timr knowledged that the virus had sp outside of Guangdong province, sa eight people had contracted it in Bei The real numbers were well into the dreds, doctors said. The price of doing nothing was b1 ning to cost China. On April 2, WH sued the first travel advisory in it.- year history, advising people not to 1 Guangdong and Hong Kong. On Ap Health Minister Zhang Wenkang sa a news conference that China was “: and that “SARS has been placed u effective control.” He said Beijing had only 12 ms SARS. Hu Makes His Move On April 4, Jiang Yanyong, a 72-; old retired surgeon at Beijing's No. military hospital, took an enormous And with that risk he put more pres on the Communist leadership. Jiang watched Zhang's news conference become enraged, he recalled. He set e-mail to China Central Television the Hong Kong—based Phoenix telev station, accusing Zhang of lying. 11 message, Jiang Yanyong said that within the hospitals he knew of in jing, there were more than 100 cas patients with the virus and six had c Neither station followed up on t mail, but it was leaked to Time II zine, which put the information 0 Web site on April 9. Time’s report, 2 large number of other articles fron Western press, were translated and to e-mail boxes all over China. “We got our information from the and the Web said the government’ formation was fake,” said a senior ernment official, speaking on cond of anonymity for fear of losing his '"I'he first thing we all did when w. to the office was log on and read ‘ the government said and then read ' the foreign media said. They had cre a situation like this: If you don’t s the truth, people will start believing THE WASHINGTON l )M VA SARS OUTBREAK EV HU HAIXlN—NEW CHINA NEWS AGENCY VIA REUTERS April 25: Premier Wen Jiabao and new Health Minister Wu Yi, center, talk with masked workers at a Beijing market, days after the previous health minister’s firing. EV FAN RUJUNiNEW CHINA NEWS AGENCY VIA REUTERS Beijing, Health April 14: President Hu Jintao talks with workers at a s that China is “so e" medical facility in Guangzhou, capital of the southern :nder effective control. ” province of Guangdong, where the outbreak originated. BY FREDERIC J BROWN—AGENCE FRANCE-FRESH ovided Opening for China’s Leader AGENCE FRANCE-FRESH Couples bade farewell Sunday as some began quarantine at Naniing Normal University. The eastem city has quarantined nearly 10,000 people in an effort to stop SARS. Man at right uses a text-messaging phone, which is how much news of SARS initially became known. ued to impose a ban on news media re- porting about the disease. But on Feb. 11, the media silence was broken. The Guangzhou Daily reported that the virus had infected 305 people and that five had died. Sources said the paper was able to defy Zhang‘s blackout because it had finagled permission from the provincial government, which defied the orders of the party boss. Sources said Han n1)"m:nr\:nn tn nu!L]:nL (IV. “AU” "4...- Chinese language lends itself to short messages that can convey a lot of in- formation. While authorities had banned press reporting about the disease, text messaging was relatively uncensored. In the first quarter of the year, Chinese zapped a total of 26.5 billion messages to each other, a 15 percent increase over the same period last year. A lot of those messages concerned the US. war plans eig‘ners. So the government had to change.” There was now a confluence of factors bearing down on China’s leadership. President Hu and Premier Wen had been in office only a few weeks. Officials loyal to the previous president, Jiang Zemin, were opposing any bold plan to change position on the epidemic and release more information, Chinese sources said. But the epidemic was worsening. There were signs it was spreading into China’s interior and fresh indications it was af- fecting China’s international prestige. On April 7, Pekka Aro, a Finnish offi- cial at the International Labor Organiza- tion, became the first foreigner to die of the disease in China His death increased international pressure on China; foreign business people began to express con- cern to Chinese officials. Foreigners were canceling business trips. The World Health Organization had begun to embarrass China by stating bluntly that Beijing was covering up the extent of the epidemic. “It was obvious that drastic measures needed to be taken,” said another senior government official. “And this was a great opportunity for Hu to distinguish himself from J iang.” Wen, the premier, visited China’s Cen— ter for Disease Control on April 7. The official New China News Agency report of that visit was all smiles and hand- shakes. But in reality, Wen had come to deliver a stern message, witnesses said. “He talked about the military," said a wit- ness. “He said it was wrong that the mil- itary was not reporting cases of SARS. He said we have to start telling the truth to the people. He asked us how many peOple had SARS in Beijing.. We couldn’t tell him.” China’s military had not been report- ing to the government its numerous patients in the capital. Instead it to stop SAKS. Man at right uses a text-messaging phone, which is how much news of SARS initially became known. an on news media re- iisease. the media silence was gzhou Daily reported l infected 305 people iied. Sources said the defy Zhang’s blackout igled permission from ernment, which defied irty boss. Sources said lublish the news came mg Huahua, the pro- vho is an ally of Presi- ‘ast, Zhang is loyal to Jiang. angzhou Daily’s story rovincal government erence. When journal- incial health chief why d the outbreak sooner, f not to tell the public” ; legally required to do considered state se- the early days of the aporting on epidemics .se it called into ques- China’s system. Now, ppresses such reports id discourage foreign news conference, da bureau again tried iia. But the tussle be- party secretary, and mor, had created a ese sources said, Hu fray, ordering that la be given room to re— bout the virus. What eek-long open period Guangdong province. ess were fast and furi— ) question the govemv )f the outbreak. One iry World Herald, de- of one edition to the ang‘s propaganda bu- t too much criticism stability,” reirnposed 'that time, SARS had Iong and would soon vorld. The ban stayed ban a month. essages long began to fight the cause the party had talk of the spreading ind the country had no raiting for them. is on the move. In late y dealer got sick in sturned home to Shan- tral China, 1,000 miles risited hospitals in the and then, unable to went to Beijing‘s No. ital. By that time she husband and parents. er parents were dead. spreading in Beijing’s he National People’s s national legislature, . The annual meeting mportance because it( 7 f\ ' i? .. c EV JIANG ZHISHUN-NEW CHINA NEWS AGENCY VIA ASSOCIATED PRESS Former president Jiang Zemin, left, has claimed that China had made great strides against SARS, contrary to remarks by his successor, Hu lintao. marked the beginning of a new govern- ment, with a new president, Hu, and pre— mier, Wen. The government banned all negative news reports during the legisla- tive session, wanting to ensure that all eyes were on the tightly choreographed political succession from the elder gener— ation of Jiang to the new leaders. As the virus infected more and more people, the Health Ministry held a meet— ing with the heads of major Beijing hos— pitals on March 9 to inform them about SARS and to emphasize that they were not to report the spread of the disease to any media outlets, Chinese sources said. All the preparations, however, could not completely squash talk of the virus. It came up in an oblique way at the legis- lative session. A group of 30 delegates from Guangdong province offered a mo- tion to establish a nationwide epidemic prevention network—a circuitous signal of their concern. The Southern Met- ropolitan News, a scrappy Guangzhou- based tabloid, published a piece on March 6 that contradicted the govern- ment line that the virus was under con- trol in Guangdong. The piece enraged Guangdong party chief Zhang, who forced the paper to pull its reporter from Beijing and threatened to shut the paper down, media sources said. Then, on March 15, three days before the close of the legislative session, the World Health Organization issued its first global warning about the virus. Chi- na’s central Propaganda Ministry or- dered China’s media not to report the warning. The editor-in—chief of a Beijing- based newspaper said the order came from the Politburo. “They knew very clearly how fast SARS was spreading," he said. Still, information about the virus was filtering into mobile phones and comput- ers. Text messaging between cellular telephones has become an enormously popular way for Chinese to communicate because it is fast, and the nature of the Chinese language lends itself to short messages that can convey a lot of in- formation. While authorities had banned press reporting about the disease, text messaging was relatively uncensored. In the first quarter of the year, Chinese zapped a total of 26.5 billion messages to each other, a 15 percent increase over the same period last year. A lot of those messages concerned the US. war plans on Iraq. Many more, Chinese telecom- munications sources' said, concerned SARS. “Foreign reports: SARS has reached Beijing,” read one. “Foreign re ports: Two dead in Beijing from SARS," read another. While the word of the outbreak was reachng people, the virus itself was reaching into the Communist Party and China’s government, adding a different, more personal pressure on officials to act. As of today, 11 officials from central party agencies have died from SARS, Chinese sources said. A team of experts from the World Health Organization arrived in Beijing on March 23. Three days later, the Chi- nese government for the first time ac- knowledged that the virus had spread outside of Guangdong province, saying eight people had contracted it in Beijing. The real numbers were well into the hun- dreds, doctors said. The price of doing nothing was begin- ning to cost China. On April 2, WHO is- sued the first travel advisory in its 55- year history, advising people not to go to Guangdong and Hong Kong. On April 3, Health Minister Zhang Wenkang said at a news conference that China was “safe” and that “SARS has been placed under effective control." He said Beijing had only 12 cases of SARS. Hu Makes His Move On April 4, Jiang Yanyong, a 72-year- old retired surgeon at Beijing's No. 301 military hospital, took an enormous risk. And with that risk he put more pressure on the Communist leadership. Jiang had watched Zhang‘s news conference and become enraged, he recalled. He sent an e-mail to China Central Television and the Hong Kong-based Phoenix television station, accusing Zhang of lying. In the message, Jiang Yanyong said that just within the hospitals he knew of in Bei- jing, there were more than 100 cases of patients with the virus and six had died. Neither station followed up on the e mail, but it was leaked to Time maga— zine, which put the information on its Web site on April 9. Time’s report, and a large number of other articles from the Western press, were translated and sent to e—mail boxes all over China. “We got our information from the Web ' and the Web said the government’s in- formation was fake," said a senior gov- ernment official, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of losing his job. “The first thing We all did when we got to the office was log on and read what the government said and then read what the foreign media said. They had created a situation like this: If you don’t speak the truth, people will start believing for- shakes. But in reality, Wen had come to deliver a stern message, witnesses said. "He talked about the military,“ said a wit- ness. “He said it was wrong that the mil— itary was not reporting cases of SARS. He said we have to start telling the truth to the peeple. He asked us how many people had SARS in Beijing.’ We couldn’t tell him." China's military had not been report— ing to the government its numerous SARS patients in the capital. Instead it had been reporting up the military chain of command that ended with Jiang, who, despite having stepped down as presi- dent, remained chief of the Hu and Wen’s push for change began gathering momentum. On April 9 and 10 they arranged for experts and respected non-members of the party to meet with senior government and party officials to discuss the crisis; The consensus from those meetings, acbording to partici- pants, was that China should stop cover- ing up its epidemic‘and begin working closely with WHO and other agencies to deal with the virus. On April 11, Hu left the capital and headed to the front line of the battle against the virus in Guangdong. “Hu's trip followed a model for Communist po- litical struggle,” said a Chinese journalist who accompanied him. “To make a point, you have to leave the capital.” At about the same time, Jiang Zemin slipped away from Beijing to Shanghai, his political stronghold, a move that would hurt him later when critics would say that he was running from the virus. While Hu was still in Guangdong, Pre- mier Wen chaired an emergency meeting of the State Council on Sunday, April 13. He warned that the country’s economy, ‘ international image and social stability could be affected and that “the overall situation remains grave." On April 17, the Politburo met in an extraordinary session in Beijing. Hu and Wen had spent more than 10 days pre- paring for the confrontation. Hu ordered China’s officials to stop lying about the extent of the SARS epidemic sweeping the country and vowed an all-out war against the disease. The orders appeared on the front page of every Chinese news— paper the next day. “ On April 20, Health Minister Zhang Wenkang and Beijing‘ 3 mayor, Meng Xuenong, were ousted. While some are predicting a new era of openness from China’s Communists, there is also evidence to the contrary. Chinese authorities have arrested 107 people in the past week for sending “ru- mors” via the text messaging system used on Chinese mobile phones. And as Henk Bekedam, head of the WHO office in Beijing, said, “A lot of those rumors turned out to be true.” Six days after the firings, Jiang re— emerged and claimed the country had made great strides against the virus, a message that clashed with the grave tone of those delivered at the time by Hu. “The battle is not over yet," said a Western ambassador, noting that Jiang, as chairman of the Central Military Com- mission, still controls the arrny. “Jiang is a very smart politician," he said. “And SARS is not finished yet." —+ ...
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