Chinese Provincial Government Issues Rare Rebuke of State Media’s Virus Coverage: Leaked Document

By Nicole Hao

An internal government document has revealed a rare example of a Chinese provincial government expressing anger at the state-run media for publishing wrong information about the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus outbreak.

Heilongjiang is the northeastern-most province of China. Harbin is its capital city.

Since early April, Heilongjiang suffered a second wave virus outbreak. Cluster outbreaks were reported in hospitals and neighborhoods of Harbin and Mudanjiang, another city in the province.

In interviews with The Epoch Times, residents have expressed panic and fear as authorities failed to provide transparent information about the local outbreak.

Fake News

A leaked document from the Heilongjiang government obtained by The Epoch Times chastised state broadcaster CCTV for spreading incorrect information about a local resident whom authorities have identified as the “patient zero” of the second wave outbreak. The document is a report drafted by a working team in the Heilongjiang government after completing an investigation about the CCP virus outbreak in Harbin on April 30.

CCTV is a subsidiary of National Radio and Television Administration, a central government organ that oversees China’s television and radio industries.

“On the evening of April 14, CCTV misreported Han Peixi as a man. It caused a lot of chaotic public comments and rumors were spreading all around the country, which seriously damaged the image of Harbin and even Heilongjiang,” the document read. “However, CCTV didn’t correct its fault, nor clarify the truth.”

Heilongjiang internal doc
A working team from Heilongjiang provincial government complained the central government owned media spread fake news about the CCP virus outbreak in Harbin, China on April 30, 2020. (Provided to The Epoch Times)

On the evening of April 14, CCTV reported that the source of the second wave outbreak in Heilongjiang was a man surnamed Han, who came to Harbin from the United States on March 19.

The report claimed that Han brought back the virus from the United States and transmitted it to his neighbor who lived in the same apartment building, 33-year-old Ms. Cao.

Cao was announced by local authorities as an asymptomatic carrier on April 9 and was formally diagnosed on April 14.

The CCTV report claimed that Cao then transmitted the virus to her 32-year-old boyfriend Li, her 54-year-old mother Wang, and her mother’s boyfriend Guo.

Guo was the first confirmed virus patient in Harbin during the second wave outbreak. He visited the hospital on April 7 because of fever and coughing, and was diagnosed on April 9.

Later on April 14, the Chinese Communist Party’s mouthpiece newspaper People’s Daily published a news report via its subsidiary China Economic Weekly, in which it said Han and Cao lived together after Han came back from the United States.

The claim about Han and Cao cohabiting was quickly re-reported by dozens of Chinese media, which insinuated that Han and Cao were in an inappropriate sexual relationship.

The leaked document complained that CCTV, Beijing News, and other “large-scale media, which have government background, have huge influence on society, and are trusted by people [in China].” Although the Harbin city government tried to clarify the wrongful information, the effect was limited, the document said.

The provincial government suggested that Harbin should be more active in leading the “propaganda” related to the outbreak.

Two volunteers are spraying disinfectant at a market in the border city of Suifenhe
Two volunteers are spraying disinfectant at a market in the border city of Suifenhe in China’s northeastern Heilongjiang province on May 6, 2020. (STR/AFP via Getty Images)

Local Government’s Side of the Story

A month prior to the news reports, the Harbin city government announced at a press conference on March 15 evening that Han was a 22-year-old woman—not a man, as CCTV and other state-run media later reported.

Li Xikun, a staff at Harbin’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, later said at a press conference on April 21 that Han was a student at New York University.

On March 18, Han took flights to China via Hong Kong. After arriving in Harbin on March 19, she went back to her parents’ home to self-quarantine for 14 days. Han has a young brother who also lives in the same apartment.

On March 19 and 31, Han took two nucleic acid tests and blood antibody tests. All test results were negative.

From April 5 to 8, Han went to Shanghai for an operation unrelated to the virus. During other times, Han stayed at home with her parents and brother, according to Li.

Li said that the Harbin government believes Han to be the source of the outbreak because she came back from New York. On April 10, authorities again tested Han, and then announced that the nucleic acid test and antibody Ig-M were negative, but antibody Ig-G came back positive.

Li said that Han must have been infected with the virus when she was in New York, but her body recovered before she presented any symptoms.

However, Han’s parents and brother, who live with her, were not infected.

It is unclear whether the people mentioned in CCTV and other media’s reports were real COVID-19 cases.

From The Epoch Times