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China’s Chernobyl moment

More than one hundred China experts and senior political figures have signed an open letter describing the Chinese Communist Party government’s cover up of COVID-19 as “China’s Chernobyl moment.” The group of signatories, who include some of the world’s leading authorities on Chinese politics, law, and modern history, say that the Chinese government’s rule by fear endangers Chinese citizens—and the world.

(Read the press release here.)

Source: Macdonald-Laurier Institute

The full open letter is available on MLI’s site here or on the European Values website here.

An open letter to Chinese citizens and friends of China at home and abroad


The current global crisis has been caused by the regime so many of you have been tolerating or supporting for decades.


On 2 April 2020 a group of one hundred Chinese establishment scholars wrote an open letter decrying the “many critical voices politicizing the COVID-19 pandemic”. They stated that “(at) this stage of the pandemic, the exact source and origin of COVID-19 remain undetermined, but these questions are unimportant and finger pointing is demeaning and hurtful to everyone”. They also argued against what they alleged is the politicizing of the epidemic.

2020年4月2日,一百位中国官方学者写了一封公开信。他们谴责“许多批评声音使COVID-19大流行病政治化”。 他们说:“在大流行病的这一阶段,COVID-19的确切来源仍未确定,但是这些问题并不重要,指责使所有人贬低并伤害所有人”。他们也反对所谓的流行病政治化。

The open letter exemplifies what the independent intellectual Professor Xu Zhangrun has called the “ridiculous ‘Red Culture’ and the nauseating adulation that the system heaps on itself via shameless pro-Party hacks who chirrup hosannahs at every turn.”


Professor Xu—now under house arrest—has called on his compatriots to stop their uncritical support for the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), and instead to “rage against this injustice; let your lives burn with a flame of decency; break through the stultifying darkness and welcome the dawn.”


While the exact source and spread of the virus are not clear yet the question of origin is highly important, for the people of China and for all humankind: only by understanding how this global disaster could emerge we can prevent it from happening again.


The roots of the pandemic are in a cover-up by CCP authorities in Wuhan, Hubei province. Under the influence of the CCP the World Health Organisation first downplayed the pandemic. Taiwanese health officials also allege that they ignored their alerts of human-to-human transmission in late December. Under pressure from the CCP, democratic Taiwan—which has coped with the pandemic in exemplary fashion—is excluded from the WHO.

大流行病的问题根源在于中共当局对于疫情刚在湖北省武汉市爆发时的隐瞒。 在中共的影响下,世界卫生组织(WHO)刚开始淡化了这次疫情的严重性。据台湾卫生专家的说法,WHO忽略其2019年12月底发出关于病毒人传人的预警。虽然民主台湾成功地防治病毒在台湾的传播,可是迫于中共压力,台湾被世界卫生组织排除在外。

We should never forget that China’s Chernobyl moment was a self-inflicted wound. The CCP silenced Chinese doctors who wanted to warn other health professionals during the early stage of the outbreak: Dr Ai Fen can no longer appear in public after accepting a domestic media interview; her colleague Dr Li Wenliang died while fighting the virus in Wuhan. On his deathbed Dr Li famously said that “a healthy society shouldn’t have only one voice.”

我们永远都不要忘记,中国的“切尔诺贝利时刻”是一个自我伤害的伤口。 中共压制了中国医生,他们想在疫情爆发初期警告其他卫生专业人员:艾芬医生在接受国内一家媒体的采访后就被禁声了; 她的同事李文亮医生在武汉与该病毒作斗争时死亡。 李医生在临终时曾留下广为流传的一句话:“健康的社会不应只有一种声音。”

The Chinese entrepreneur Ren Zhiqiang wrote that “without a media representing the interests of the people by publishing the actual facts, the people’s lives are being ravaged by both the virus and the major illness of the system.” He disappeared on March 12.

中国企业家任志强写道 “没有了媒体代表人民利益去公告事实的真相,剩下的就是人民的生命被病毒和体制的重病共同伤害的结果。” 他于3月12日失踪。

The courageous citizen journalists Chen Qiushi, Fang Bin and Li Zehua, who tried to report freely about the situation in Wuhan, now are also missing.


Mainland China’s political malaise goes beyond the leadership failure of Xi Jinping. In a recent video message a young student called Zhang Wenbin reflected on his evolution from an uncritical CCP supporter to a critical citizen with a conscience: “Since I scaled the Great Firewall, I gradually came to the realization that the Chinese Communist Party has extended its dragon claws into every corner of the world, including collective farming [1950s], the Cultural Revolution [1966-1976], the Great Famine [1958-1961], the One-Child Policy, the Tiananmen massacre [1989], as well as the persecution of the Falun Gong [spiritual movement], and the peoples of Tibet, Hong Kong and Xinjiang…Yet everyone continues to turn a blind eye, singing the party’s praises. I just can’t bear it”. Zhang disappeared shortly after recording his message. His friends fear he will face interrogation and torture by the secret police.

中国内地的政治困境不仅仅是习近平领导的失败,而且有其他因素。 在最近的一段视频信息中,一位叫张文斌的大学生反思了他从一个非批判的中共支持者到一个有良知的具有批判性的中国公民的过程:“(自从我) 翻墙之后慢慢认清共产党邪恶的嘴脸。中国共产党从土地改革、文化大革命、三年饥荒、计划生育、六四屠杀、对法轮功的迫害、对西藏、香港和新疆人民的迫害,到今天它已经将魔爪伸向了全世界,而大家还都视而不见,甚至还在歌功颂德,我实在无法忍受。” 张先生在记录他的视频后不久就消失了。 他的朋友担心他会受到当局的讯问和酷刑。

The global pandemic forces us all to confront an inconvenient truth: by politicizing all aspects of life including people’s health, continued autocratic one-party rule in the People’s Republic of China has endangered everyone. Rather than trusting the CCP’s intentions and accepting establishment academics’ uncritical approval of the party-state’s policies, we should pay greater attention to the voices of what can be termed ‘unofficial’ China. These independent-minded academics, doctors, entrepreneurs, citizen journalists, public interest lawyers and young students no longer accept the CCP’s rule by fear. Neither should you.

全球大流行病迫使我们所有人面对一个不便的事实:中华人民共和国的一党专制统治继续包括人民健康在内的生活各个方面政治化,从而危害了所有人。 我们不应该相信中共的意图并接受官方学者对党国政策的不予批判的认可,而应该更加关注非官方中国的声音。 这些思想独立的学者、医生、企业家、公民记者、公益律师和大学生不再接受中共以恐吓为主的政治统治方式。 您也不应接受这样的恐吓。

As an international group of public figures, security policy analysts and China watchers we stand in solidarity with courageous and conscientious Chinese citizens including Xu Zhangrun, Ai Fen, Li Wenliang, Ren Zhiqiang, Chen Qiushi, Fang Bin, Li Zehua, Xu Zhiyong, and Zhang Wenbin, just to name a few of the real heroes and martyrs who risk their life and liberty for a free and open China. Their individual voices are already forming a chorus. They demand nothing less than a critical evaluation of the impact of CCP policies on the lives of Chinese citizens and citizens around the world. We urge you to join them.

作为公众人士、安全政策研究者和中国观察者国际团体的成员,我们与勇敢有良知的中国公民站在一起。在此仅列举一些英雄:许章润、艾芬、李文亮、任志强、陈秋实、方斌、李泽华、许志永和张文斌,他们为自由开放的中国冒着生命和自由的危险。 他们各自的声音已经汇成一首合唱曲。 他们呼吁重新批判性地评估中共的政策,以及这些政策对中国公民和全球各国公民所带来的影响。 我们也敦促您加入他们。


Judith Abitan, Executive Director of the Raoul Wallenberg Centre for Human Rights, and a Human Rights Advocate

Patricia Adams, Probe International, Canada

Mantas Adomėnas MP, Parliament of Lithuania

Yoko Alender MP, Parliament of Estonia

Lord Alton of Liverpool, House of Lords, United Kingdom

Lord Andrew Adonis, House of Lords, United Kingdom

Dibyesh Anand, University of Westminster

Matteo Angioli, Global Committee for the Rule of Law “Marco Pannella”

Swati Arun, Jawaharlal Nehru University

Nathan Attrill, Australian National University

Rt Hon Norman Baker, Former Home Affairs minister, UK government

Christopher Balding, Fulbright University Vietnam

Carol Bao, University of Sydney

Geremie R. Barmé, Historian, Professor Emeritus, The Australian National University

Bastiaan Belder, Historian, Rapporteur European Parliament on EU-China relations 2004-2019

James Bezan MP, House of Commons of Canada, Selkirk-Interlake-Eastman, Shadow Minister for National Defence, Canada

Teng Biao, Hunter College, City University of New York

Luca Biason, The Australian National University

Mattias Bjornerstedt, Swedish Tibet Committee, Sweden

Stephen Blank, Senior Fellow,

Harald Bockman, University of Oslo

Michel Bonnin, EHESS, Paris, France

Anne-Marie Brady, Global Fellow, Kissinger Institute on China and the US, Wilson Center, USA; Professor in Political Science and International Relations, University Canterbury, NZ

Charles Burton, Macdonald-Laurier Institute and European Values Center for Security Policy

Jean-Pierre Cabestan, Professor, Hong Kong Baptist University

William A. Callahan, Professor of International Relations, London School of Economics

Dominic Cardy, MLA for Fredericton West-Hanwell, Minister for Education and Early Childhood Development, Legislative Assembly of Nova Scotia, Canada

Kevin Carrico, Monash University

Chuangchuang Chen, St John’s University School of Law, USA

Duanjie Chen, Macdonald-Laurier Institute

Alvin Y.H. Cheung, NYU School of Law

Josephine Chiu-Duke, University of British Columbia, Canada

Netiwit Chotiphatphaisal, Humanity Beyond Borders, Thailand

Katherine Chu, Cal Sate University Dominguez Hills

Donald Clarke, George Washington University

Jerome A. Cohen, Founding Director, US-Asia Law Institute, New York University

J Michael Cole, University of Nottingham and Senior fellow, Macdonald-Laurier Institute, Ottawa, Canada

Damian Collins MP, House of Commons, United Kingdom

John Conti, California State University Dominguez Hills

Stéphane Corcuff, University of Lyon

David Nicholas Copeland Cortes, School of International Studies, Renmin University of China

Irwin Cotler, Chair of the Raoul Centre for Human Rights, Emeritus Professor of Law at McGill University, and former Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Halyna Coynash, Kharkiv Human Rights Group

Peter Dahlin, Director, Safeguard Defenders

Hon Michael Danby MP, Seven term MP, former Parliamentary Secretary & past Chao Australian Parliament Foreign Affairs & Defence Committee

Michael Danielsen, Taiwan Corner

David A. Dayton, Utah Valley University

Axel Dessein, King’s College London

Ying Duan, Independent activist, Australia

Michael S. Duke, University of British Columbia, Canada

Stephen Ezell, Information Technology and Innovation Foundation, United States

Horst Fabian, Independent researcher and Europe – China civil society Ambassador

Willy Fautré, Human Rights Without Frontiers

Fredrik Fällman, Associate Professor of Sinology, University of Gothenburg

Antonia Finnane, University of Melbourne

Isaac Stone Fish, Senior Fellow, Asia Society

Anna Fotyga, European Parliament

Andrew Foxall, Henry Jackson Society

Vanessa Frangville, Université Libre de Bruxelles

Aaron L. Friedberg, Princeton University

Andreas Fulda, University of Nottingham, School of Politics and International Relations

Daniel Garrett, Securing Tianxia

Henry Geraedts, Tetris Management, Adjunct Professor (Retired) University of British Columbia

Thomas Gold, University of California, Berkeley

Angela Gui, University of Cambridge

Martin Hála, Sinopsis and Charles University

Clive Hamilton, Charles Sturt University, Canberra

Laura Harth, Global Committee for the Rule of Law “Marco Pannella”

John Hemmings, Henry Jackson Society

Frank Herschel Finch III, University of New Haven

Michael Hsiao, Academia Sinica

Ho-fung Hung, Johns Hopkins University

Susie Hughes, Executive Director, International Coalition To End Transplant Abuse In China (ETAC), Australia

Massimo Introvigne, Sociologist, editor in chief of Bitter Winter

Dolkun Isa, World Uyghur Congress

Jakub Janda, Director, European Values Center for Security Policy, Prague, Czech Republic

Chin Jin, University of Sydney, Australia

Filip Jirouš, Sinopsis

Rasa Juknevičienė, European Parliament

Thierry Kellner, Université libre de Bruxelles

Tinatin Khidasheli, Civic IDEA, Former Minister of Defence, Georgia

Tamar Kintsurashvili, Media Development Foundation

Adéla Kleckova, German Marshall Fund, Czech Republic

Ondřej Klimeš, Researcher, Czech Academy of Sciences

Marcus Kolga, Macdonald-Laurier Institute

Marko Kovic, Independent researcher and writer in Zurich, Switzerland

Andrius Kubilius, European Parliament

André Laliberté, University of Ottawa School of Political Studies, Canada

Gabrielius Landsbergis, Chairman of the Homeland Union-Lithuanian Christian Democrats

Nathan Law Kwun Chung, Demosisto

Gregory Lee, University of Lyon

Eric S Li, Senior Member, Association of Computing Machinery, Canada

Anastasia Lin, Macdonald-Laurier Institute

Petra Lindberg, SHRIC -Supporting Human Rights In China

Jan Lipavský MP, House of Commons, Czech Republic

Dimon Liu, Independent human rights activist

Olga Lomová, Charles University

Edward Lucas, Author, journalist, and senior vice-president, Center for European Policy Analysis

Nicola Macbean, The Rights Practice

Hon. Michael L. MacDonald, Senator, Nova Scotia (Cape Breton), Parliament of Canada

Paul Macgregor, Historian of Chinese in Australia

Hon. Peter MacKay, former Minister for Foreign Affairs, National Defence, Justice and Attorney General, Canada

Paul Maddison, Director UNSW Research Institute, former Canadian High Commissioner to Australia, former Commander of the Royal Canadian Navy, University of New South Wales

Rahima Mahmut, Uyghur Human Rights Activiest, U.K. Project Director, World Uyghur Congress

Paul Maidowski, Fletcher School alumn

Shuvaloy Majumdar, Program Director & Munk Senior Fellow for Foreign Policy, Macdonald-Laurier Institute

Dorian Malovic, Asia Editor La Croix

Jonathan Manthorpe, International Affairs Commentator and author of “Claws of the Panda: Beijing’s Campaign of Influence and Intimidation in Canada” and “Forbidden Nation: A History of Taiwan.”

Kyle Matthews, Montreal Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies

Margaret McCuaig-Johnston, Distinguished Fellow, Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada

Stewart McDonald MP, House of Commons, United Kingdom

John Minford, Emeritus Professor of Chinese Studies, Australian National University

David Missal, Sinologist and Freelance Journalist

Alan Mendoza, The Henry Jackson Society

Juraj Mesík, Slovak Foreign Policy Association

Giorgi Moldini, Stratcom Georgia

Joseph Moschella, Attorney and Founder, Americans For Global Engagement

Enrique Miguel Sanchez Motos, Senior Civil Servant. President of Association for the Defense of Freedom of Conscience

John MacKenzie Nicolson, House of Commons, United Kingdom

Manyan Ng, International Society for Human Rights

Valérie Niquet, China and Asia specialist

Shaun O’Dwyer, Faculty of Languages and Cultures, Kyushu University

Hon. Erin O’Toole, MP for Durham, former Minister of Veterans Affairs, Canada

Mareike Ohlberg, Analyst, Mercator Institute for China Studies

Kyle Olbert, Citizens of the American Republic

Jojje Olsson, Swedish journalist

Richard C Owens, Macdonald-Laurier Institute, Canada

Tsering Passang, Adviser, Tibetan Community UK

Karen Patterson, Freelance Writer – Taking on China: How I Freed My Husband From Jail (2020), Canada

Katarzyna Pejda, The John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin, Poland

Andrew J Phelan, Med Tech Entrepreneur

Johnathan Pollock, Editor, 9DashLine

Ivan Poon, Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Patrick Poon, PhD researcher, Université Jean Moulin (Lyon III)

Pitman B. Potter, Peter A. Allard School of Law, University of British Columbia

Katerina Prochazkova, Sinopsis

Luke de Pulford, Coalition for Genocide Response

Liwen Qin, Independent writer, Germany

Jafer Qureshi, Consultant Psychiatrist – Fellow Of the Royal College of Psychiatry. Philanthropist

Aaron Rhodes, President, Forum for Religious Freedom Europe

Pablo Rodríguez-Merino, University of Warwick

Benedict Rogers, Deputy Chair of Conservative Party Human Rights Commission & Chair of Hong Kong Watch

Wendy Rogers, International Coalition to End Transplant Abuse in China, Macquarie University, Australia

Bert-Jan Ruissen, Member of the European Parliament

Stuart Russell, Professor, Macquarie University School of Law, Sydney Australia (retired)

Giulio Terzi di Sant’Agata, President of the “Global Committee for the Rule of Law- Marco Pannella”

Łukasz Sarek, Researcher, Asia Explained

Katarzyna Sarek, Jagiellonian University, Poland

David Schak, Griffith Asia Institute, Griffith University

Hon. Andrew Scheer, MP for Regina—Qu’Appelle, Leader of Canada’s Conservatives and Leader of the Official Opposition

Puma Shen, National Taipei University

Radosław Sikorski, European Parliament

Derek Sloan, MP for Hastings-Lennox & Addington, Parliament of Canada

Michaela Šojdrová, Member of European Parliament, Czech Republic

Duncan Stirling, Former participant; EU-China Managers Exchange and Training Programme. Former foreign expert; China Central Television

Mark Stokes, The Project 2049 Institute

May-Britt U. Stumbaum, Freie Universität Berlin

Joshua Tang, Hong Kong Polytechnic University

Didi Kirsten Tatlow, Sinopsis

Rukiye Turdush, Uyghur Research Institute, Canada

Nury Turkel, Attorney and Board Chair of the Uyghur Human Rights Project, USA

Thierry Valle, President, Coordination des Associations et des Particuliers pour la Liberté de Conscience

Tsering Wangchuk, United Nations for Tibet

Caroline Wanjiru, African Center for Strategic Futures, Kenya

Gerrit van der Wees, George Mason University, USA

Charlie Weimers MEP, Member of the European Parliament (Sweden, ECR Group)

Kerry Wright, NSW Education, Library of Tibetan Works and Archives, Australia Tibet Council, Australian Women for Tibet, Australia

Steve Xue, Boston University School of Theology

Michael B. Yahuda, Professor Emeritus, London School of Economics; Visiting Scholar, George Washington University

Lee Cheuk Yan, Hong Kong Alliance in Support of Patriotic Democratic Movement in China

Jianli Yang, Founder and President of Citizen Power Initiatives for China

Solomon Yue, CEO of Republicans Overseas & Republican National Committeeman for Oregon

Anna Zádrapová, Sinopsis

Michal Zelcer-Lavid, Bar-Ilan University

Adrian Zenz, Senior fellow in China Studies, Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation

Xiaoshi Zhang, Cardozo School of Law

Peter Zoehrer, FOREF Europe

(This list was updated on April 16, 2020 at 3:30pm ET)


Are you an expert or a politician interested in signing onto this letter? Or are you a member of the press looking for more information? If so, please contact MLI’s Communications and Digital Media Manager, Brett Byers:

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