Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon has demanded an apology from the government of China “for the destruction it has caused” due to the spread of the new coronavirus disease.
In a statement released on April 2, the prelate, who is also president of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences, said China, not its people, owes the world “an apology and compensation.”
“At a minimum it should write off the debts of other countries, to cover the cost of COVID-19,” said the cardinal, adding that nations “must not be afraid to hold” the Chinese government to account.
“No corner of the world is untouched by this pandemic, no life unaffected,” he said. “By the time this is over the global death toll is expected to be millions,” added Cardinal Bo.
Cardinal Bo criticized China’s “negligent attitude” and for trying to suppress information when the virus first emerged.
“Instead of protecting the public and supporting doctors, the [Chinese Communist Party] silenced the whistleblowers,” said the cardinal.
He condemned alleged government moves to silence the late Dr. Li Wenliang who issued a warning to fellow health professionals about the virus as early as December.
The 34-year-old ophthalmologist was told he would be investigated for “spreading rumors” and “was forced by the police to sign a confession.”
The doctor died after contracting the virus.
Cardinal Bo also decried the reported disappearance of citizen journalists who tried to report on the extent of the spread of the and who were believed arrested by authorities “simply for telling the truth.”
The prelate said that Myanmar, which shares a border with China, is “extremely vulnerable” of the disease.
“We are a poor nation without the health and social care resources that more developed nations have,” he said.
He also noted that thousands of people in Myanmar have been displaced by conflict, living in refugee camps without adequate sanitation, medicines or care.
The cardinal said “social distancing” in these overcrowded camps is “impossible to apply.”
“The healthcare systems in the most advanced countries in the world are overwhelmed, so imagine the dangers in a poor and conflict-ridden country like Myanmar,” Cardinal Bo said.
“As we survey the damage done to lives around the world, we must ask who is responsible? Of course, criticisms can be made of authorities everywhere,” he said.
The cardinal made it clear that it is the ruling Chinese Communist Party, not the people of China, that is responsible.
“No one should respond to this crisis with racial hatred towards the Chinese,” said the prelate.
He said the Chinese people themselves “were the first victims of this virus and have long been the primary victims of their repressive regime.”
“They deserve our sympathy, our solidarity, and our support,” said Cardinal Bo. “But it is the repression, the lies and the corruption of the [Communist Party] that are responsible,” he said.
Globally, more than 44,000 people have died, about 900,000 have been diagnosed with the new coronavirus disease, and some 190,000 have recovered, according to data collected by Johns Hopkins University.