03/12/2020, 12.39
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China, masks for Italy, freedom of speech suffocated

by Bernardo Cervellera

Beijing will give 100 thousand masks; 20 thousand protective suits, 50 thousand swabs. 1000 lung ventilators are also on the way to help Italian coronavirus patients breathe. But China should not have suffocated the voices of doctors and journalists who already warned of a more powerful SARS virus in December. Italy should also ask for "free speech" for the Chinese. The silence of the leadership generated the pandemic.

Rome (AsiaNews) - A shower of gifts is about to submerge Italy. Thanks to the good relations between our foreign ministry and Beijing, 100 thousand high-tech masks will arrive soon (and free of charge); 20 thousand protective suits, in addition to 50 thousand swabs to perform diagnostic tests for coronavirus. In addition, "thanks to friendship and solidarity" with the Middle Empire, Italy will be able to buy and receive 1000 lung ventilators as soon as possible – through favorable channels - to help our coronavirus patients breathe.

In the midst of this dramatic emergency that our nation is experiencing, coupled with the fear of seeing even more fall ill with the virus over the next few days, similar steps will reduce the risk of collapse of our hospital structures. And for this reason it is only right to express our sincere gratitude to the Chinese government.

However, all the publicity generated by these gifts is disturbing: Xi Jinping's letter to our President of the Republic, which exalts humanity's "shared future"; the proclamations of the Chinese embassy in Rome, with the slogan "Come on China, come on Italy!"; videos of Chinese strangers who urge Italy to "put their foot on the gas" for a string ‘re-start’ ("Itali jia you!").

The avalanche of gifts and the outpourings of friendship show a China crowing victory over the coronavirus, now ready to help the whole world starting with Italy. The impression, however, is that with this loudly proclaimed friendship, Beijing is attempting to mask the responsibilities it alone has had and still has regarding the coronavirus emergency. And this is not just regarding the sale of wild animals at the Wuhan market: We are talking about the silence of the authorities that lasted for over a month, before raising the alarm.

Just as Beijing donates respirators to Italy, we must speak above all of the systematic suffocation that leaders have implemented against doctors and journalists who already warned hospitals, friends and authorities about a pneumonia similar to Sars, but far more harmful, as early as last December.

With immeasurable courage, as Xi Jinping is attempting to show himself as the great victor in the war against the virus, Wuhan's doctors have spoken out and denounced the silence and oppression they were subjected to and the lies fabricated by the authorities. Some of them, like Li Wenliang, and many others, died of the same disease they first tried to alert the world to.

Dr. Ai Fen, from the Wuhan Central Hospital Emergency Center, also courageously told a newspaper about her continuing attempts to push hospital and civic and provincial authorities to take action against the virus. But in vain. It is likely that if the alert from these doctors had been heeded, the coronavirus epidemic would not have become a pandemic.

Now these doctors and many intellectuals are demanding guarantees for free speech in China, and instead they are receiving threats and arrests.

I think that China's gifts to Italy would be even more welcome if Beijing and Xi Jinping gave his people and the press freedom of speech. He would do his people and the whole world a favor. And I also think that if our Italian politicians really want to be friends with China, they cannot hide this truth from Beijing.

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