As China expels American journalists during the COVID-19 pandemic, we remain committed to produce VPN technology that enables the free flow of life-saving information.
No doubt you're as worried as we are about China’s recent decision to expel at least 13 journalists working for The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal.
It’s not unusual for China to try to limit what journalists can cover, but this time China went further than usual by ordering journalists whose visas expire by the end of the year to turn in their press credentials within 10 days. In addition, the journalists are forbidden to work anywhere in mainland China, as well as in the semi-autonomous Chinese territories of Macau and Hong Kong.
China says the decision is in retaliation after the U.S. government limited the number of Chinese journalists who can work inside the United States, although those journalists are largely considered to be a reporting arm for the Chinese government while those whom China expelled work for independent news organizations.
Tragically, this move comes at a critical time. While China claims to have stemmed domestic cases of the coronavirus, it’s still vital that the world stays informed of what happens there. We need to know how those infected are responding to treatment, how many have died and how many new cases are appearing.
Many doubt that the Chinese government can be trusted to report truthful information about how COVID-19 is impacting its citizens. According to a classified U.S. intelligence report, China concealed the extent of the coronavirus outbreak in its country and under-reported the numbers of cases and deaths.
In fact, officials repressed details about the coronavirus from when it was first discovered. Last December, Dr. Li Wenliang, a 34-year-old ophthalmologist from Wuhan from where the virus originated, tried to alert colleagues about an outbreak of a coronavirus in an online chatroom. In January, Chinese authorities detained Dr. Li and forced him to sign a statement denouncing his warning as an illegal rumor. As the number of coronavirus cases grew, China imposed even tighter restrictions on the media and online discussions.
Dr. Li, who contracted the virus and likely did not receive early treatment, died from COVID-19 on February 7. By that point, more than 600 other Chinese had also succumbed to the disease. Health experts say China’s censorship tactics lost valuable time, that it allowed the number of cases to skyrocket and ultimately grow into a pandemic.
Given its history of censorship, torturing and jailing dissidents and expelling journalists, including these recent actions, we can’t be certain that China is telling the truth about having brought coronavirus cases under control. And even if it is true, China isn’t out of the woods. The country is still seeing new cases imported from abroad and health experts warn that the country likely will be hit with a new wave of infections.
All this raises troubling questions: Where does this leave those of you who have come to rely on our products to provide you unfettered access to content about the COVID-19 pandemic and other important matters? And where does this leave the people of China who need to receive and share accurate information about what they are witnessing and experiencing?
Our answer to these questions is simple: We remain committed to combating censorship so that people all over the globe have the ability to access vital information, especially that which authoritarian governments try to hide. It’s why we support advocates for press freedom, such as GreatFire.org, which monitors and challenges internet censorship.
Now that the lives of billions of people in China and around the world are impacted by the threat of COVID-19, we are resolute in our mission to produce excellent VPN services so that all people may benefit from a free and open internet.