Corona news in China: sorting the pieces of the puzzle

“I am using VPN’s (Virtual Private Network) to work around the censorship wall”, says Upton McLaughlin, a marketing and PR-specialist based in Shenzhen China.

By Jelle Voort

It appeared in the beginning of December 2019; the Corona-virus. Since then it’s been covering the headlines all around the globe. The new SARS-like disease developed in the Hubei province in China. There are doubts if the censored Chinese press has been reporting the truth about this novel virus. Especially if this news could be harmful to the communist state. We’ve talked to Sean Upton-McLaughlin, a marketing and PR-specialist based in Shenzhen China, about the way he gathers his virus news during these pandemic times.

Since the beginning of the corona outbreak in December of 2019 there have been reports of China wanting to hide the virus from the people. According to early reports the disease found its origin on a fish market in Wuhan. When the local government shut down the market, they claimed this was because of a renovation.

But Upton McLaughlin believes that the Chinese state media have been transparent enough in their media coverage: “For someone living here in Shenzhen during the Coronavirus outbreak, the actions the government have taken speak much louder than the news coverage. These actions include creating and enforcing clear travel restrictions, having checkpoints and temperature screenings at entrances to buildings and neighborhoods, and voluntary and enforced home quarantines. These actions, while stressful, make us all feel safer. Also, we receive daily push notifications to our mobiles with virus updates and daily updates on virus numbers throughout China.”

If the state media’s numbers of infected are accurate or not doesn’t concern him and his Chinese friends: “It’s not something I’ve heard people talk about. We’re looking more at the trends of the infected, recovered and deaths.”

On Western social media sites videos have surfaced of Chinese people being chased around by drones and people being forcefully locked in their homes to quarantine them. A harsh but necessary measure, according to Upton-McLaughlin: “The drones have mainly been used in remote locations to aid communication, and the forced quarantines have been used on people who might present a risk, as the incubation period is apparently two weeks. I support both measures and would support being forcefully quarantined at home, despite the inconvenience, if needed. That’s what quarantines are – forced isolation.”

Upton-McLaughlin uses many sources to gather his news surrounding the Corona-outbreak and isn’t only relying on the state media: “I am using VPN’s (Virtual Private Network) to work around the censorship wall. But I do not rely completely on Western news sources as, while their numbers are certainly going to be more accurate, I have found there to be somewhat of an anti-China slant. One single source will not have the full story, so I use many different sources to try and obtain a full picture.”