China's Bird Flu Credibility Gap

The World

An employee sprays to sterilize a poultry farm in Hemen township, Jiangsu province, April 8, 2013. Picture taken April 8, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer (CHINA - Tags: ANIMALS SOCIETY) CHINA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN CHINA - RTXYEJV


The Chinese government is reacting to the new outbreak of bird flu with some refreshing transparency. Compared to its response to the SARS outbreak a decade ago, the government has been relatively open about the spread of the new and deadly strain of avian influenza called H7N9. But some Chinese citizens who have questioned official statistics have landed in jail. There have been about 11 people detained so far for "spreading rumors online" and for "spreading panic." And the government has said, "look we've released the cases that we've confirmed. And if you're going to release a lot of other information online that we can't confirm, that just gets people worried and it doesn't do anyone any good." The detentions are for up to 10 days, Magistad says. The new strain of flu is a big topic on social media throughout Asia. Some online posts have openly mocked the government — especially after several local Chinese Department of Health officials suggested a Chinese herbal medicine could prevent H7N9 infections.
Sign up for our daily newsletter

Sign up for The Top of the World, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning.