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Putting the Unrest to Rest: Could the Chinese Government Have Used the Coronavirus to Silence Protesters?

Most people have heard the commotion surrounding the Hong Kong protests, but as they were heating up, Wuhan was just getting started. In June of 2019, the Chinese government decided they wanted to place numerous incinerators in a civilian area, causing outrage throughout the already polluted municipality. 

Why Were They Protesting? 

The main incinerator was planned to be colossal, as it had to be big enough to remove the waste from the 300,000 Wuhan citizens in the Yangluo Zone of Xinzhou District. In fact, it would have had the capability to burn 2,000 tons of waste a day. The unrest from the citizens became clear, as dozens of thousands took to the streets to protest the placement, which could pose many health, municipal, and environmental hazards. 

For the smog-ridden city, the construction of such devices would not be the first hazard built to “remove” toxic waste from the area. There is already a fairly large landfill in the same area, of which produces numerous toxins in the air, many of which are cancer and other disease causing compounds. 

Wuhan’s people had every right to be upset, as the incinerator would release large amounts of dioxin. Dioxin is a chemical/carcinogen that can lead to shutdown of both the immune and the endocrine systems. Five more of these incinerators throughout China had proven this to be true numerous times, as they also tested positive for substances that present environmental risks. 

Rumors began to spread that the Chinese government had already started construction, but the citizens were willing to compromise, so long as it was built away from the residential areas. These protests grew to several days, as tens of thousands showed to express their disinterest in the new proposal. 

How Did the Government Respond?

In response to the protests, the Chinese govt. shut down all rumors that construction had started, despite evidence that it was up and moving. They quickly deployed hundreds of riot police to the protest zones, warning of physical violence if it continued. Despite the protests continuing, mass violence did not occur, although there were numerous reports of police “kidnapping” protestors and taking them away in vans. They even shut down businesses to prevent protestors from fleeing into shops and masquerading as customers. 

Outside of that, the Chinese government also attempted to seal the protests shut outside of the country, though their efforts did not succeed. They censored any data that was released to the outside world, and increased public security measures. 

The protests ended as the plans were temporarily halted, and it even seemed as if the protestors had won the battle, at least for now. But, that was short lived…

Coronavirus Outbreak

Since June, there have been over 2,000 deaths and 80,000 cases of the Coronavirus in the Wuhan area. While this could simply be a coincidence, the odds are stacked against the Chinese government. 

Since the outbreaks, Wuhan has been in constant turmoil. Meanwhile, there have been over 40 incinerators built in the area for the sake of “keeping the people safe” (where have we heard that before?).

When Dr. Li Wenliang was arrested for “whistleblowing” the original reports of the outbreak, the world was skeptical. Now, he has mysteriously died from the illness itself, prompting investigation. People in China called for an investigation on the matter, but it was quickly censored. 

The world is watching China, yet they still continue to censor their civilians, avoid exposure to media, and most of all, silence critics. This could simply be to avoid further criticism, but I believe it could be something much bigger, specifically involving the construction of said incinerators. If you look back to the response to previous protests of this size in China, the government had no problem harming its citizens for personal and economic gain before. Why would that change now?

Image: screenshot, China News Service on YouTube
Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license

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