Amid demand in China for more transparency about the avian flu outbreak that has already killed seven people, a People's Liberation Army colonel has claimed that the virus is an American conspiracy. Dai Xu, a PLA air force commander, also suggested the Chinese government should not concern itself too much in tackling the problem as the death toll will be low.
Dai made the comment in his micro-blog on April 6, 2013:
In dealing with the avian flu which has been widely discussed online, the central authorities should not be too concerned. Else we will fall into the trap like we did back in 2003 during SARS! At that time Country M [USA] wanted to attack Iraq and was worried that China would take action, so they adopted bio-psychological weapons and China fell into chaos as Country M had anticipated. Now Country M uses the same old tactic and China has to learn lessons from the past. Take it easy — no so many people will die, the death toll will not exceed one thousandth of the deaths from car accidents in China.
His remark drew much criticism and he closed the comment section on the post the next day. He then explained away the criticisms with the same conspiracy theory:
I expressed yesterday my wish that people should deal with the avian flu with a cool mind and should not fall into panic like what happened back in 2003. The so-called public intellectuals in China fed with toxic American thinking and the group of unidentifiable accounts kept barking at me like a rabies outbreak! It lets Chinese people see the bad eggs clearly and reflects the dark and misty atmosphere of the Chinese internet public sphere.
Below is a selection of the so-called rabies outbreak of comments:
@Innocent Wolf Totem: Soldier Dai Xu's comment on avian flu is outraging. Such behavior is also distressing. The fact that as an air commander he can openly say something belittling human life challenges what we consider a baseline of humanity. He also ridicules people's security and public intelligence. How can a responsible government allow such a bad sort to take up an important position? How the matter is handled will be a test to the new government. Dai should resigned from his position and apologize to the victims of the avian flu.
@Crane Hut Breeze: China is full of nobodies like Dai Xu: They claim that they love the country and defend the country's interests. They see themselves as the pillars of the country and enjoy all the benefits and a luxurious lifestyle with good wine and clothes. They only work for their supervisors and [the Party] organization which gives them good lives in the name of the nation. But they disregard people's interests and rights in their acts. They are the country's scumbags.
@Magistrate Of Ancient Tongzhou city: @Dai Xu would be turned into God if there were no Weibo.
@Disciple Of Solomon: Soldiers like Dai Xu make people feel creeped out. To you death has been reduced to number? You are not qualified to be solider. If there is war, you will be a slaughterer. If you really feel that it is okay for a few people to die, you and your family should die first. Life is just a number to you, but for those who have lost their family members, they lost everything.
Hu Xijin, the chief editor of Global Times, the CCP's mouthpiece tried to cool people's anger by taking a more neutral position:
One, I don't agree with Dai Xu's comment on H7N9 Avian flu. He is too impartial and I can't trust his analysis. Two, Dai Xu is a solider and a scholar. He should be encouraged to participate in current affairs discussion. Their participation will help China to be more transparent. Three, when Dai Xu is wrong, the public will criticize him and he will lose his credibility. Four, the government authority should not intervene in this.
In Hu's comment thread, some adopt the liberal position and agree that Dai's rights should be defended, but some point out that as a PLA soldier, Dai's opinion does not only represent his own:
World Wanderer 007: “I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to death your right to say it” is the basic principle of democratic politics. Against free speech prosecution! Everyone should have the right to express their opinion. It is feudal behavior to threaten people by demanding the authorities “sack” those who you disagree with. We should not forget our historical lessons. Can we live in an era when we don't have freedom of speech?
@putianzhixia110: The government should not intervene if ordinary people say such a thing. But Dai is a government official and the government should intervene. Chief editor Hu is being very lenient to his own kind.
skymedia3: The nature of PLA makes a difference: They have to obey the central Party authority. As a solider, no matter if he is a scholar or a commander, public speech should not be personal. This is strict discipline. If a number of commanders echo each other in their posts, people may think that the decision comes from the central Party. I suggest to them to keep their mouths shut and don't get themselves into trouble.