As Virus Spreads, Anger Floods Chinese Social Media

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Other people hungering to express frustration have taken to the Chinese social platform Douban, which has been flooded recently by user reviews for “Chernobyl,” the hit television series about the Soviet nuclear disaster.

“In any era, any country, it’s the same. Cover everything up,” one reviewer wrote on Monday.

“That’s socialism,” wrote another.

Some Chinese news outlets have been able to report incisively on the coronavirus. The influential newsmagazine Caixin has put out rigorous reporting and analysis. The Paper, a digital news outlet that is overseen by Shanghai’s Communist Party Committee, published a chilling video about a Wuhan resident who couldn’t find a hospital that would treat him and ended up wandering the streets.

Mr. Xiao, the Chinese internet expert, said the central authorities long gave such outlets special leeway to cover certain topics in ways that official media cannot. But the outlets should not be viewed as independent of the government, he said, calling their coverage “planned and controlled publicity” from the authorities.

Even outside the digital realm, it is not hard to find people in China who remain unsure of whether to trust what their government is telling them about the outbreak.

Chen Pulin, a 78-year-old retiree, was waiting outside a Shanghai hospital recently while his daughter was inside being tested for the virus. When word of the disease first began trickling out, he immediately had doubts about whether officials were being forthcoming about it.

“Even now, the government seems to be thinking about the economy and social stability,” Mr. Chen said. “Those things are important, but when it comes to these infectious diseases, stopping the disease should come first.”

Li Yuan contributed reporting from Hong Kong. Claire Fu, Lin Qiqing and Wang Yiwei contributed research.



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