Published: April 2021 (upd.)
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Did China stage the early videos of people collapsing in Wuhan?
Already in March 2020, SPR argued that the coronavirus situation appeared to show aspects of a possibly serious pandemic, a mass psychosis, and a psychological (i.e. propaganda) operation.
Since the early days of the pandemic, many people have been wondering if the notorious videos of “people collapsing in Wuhan”, which emerged in late January 2020 (see below), had in fact been staged by the Chinese government to frighten the West into lockdowns and self-destruction. After all, it is argued, such events haven’t been seen anywhere else later on during the pandemic.
For instance, on January 31, 2020, British newspaper The Guardian titled: “A man lies dead in the street: the image that captures the Wuhan coronavirus crisis”. A week before, the British Express titled: “Coronavirus horror: Social media footage shows infected Wuhan residents ‘act like zombies'”.
But an analysis of these videos and their context shows the following:
- Contrary to claims that there were “dozens” or even “hundreds” of such videos, there were only about ten such videos, which were shown in various places and in various combinations.
- Most of these videos really had nothing to do with covid. Rather, these videos showed drunk people, homeless people, road accidents, unspecified medical emergencies, and even training exercises. Some of these videos were quickly debunked by Western “fact checkers”.
- Because of the simultaneous virus outbreak, first responders in Wuhan often already wore protective equipment (the white bio-hazard suits). Thus, to bystanders and to people uploading and sharing the videos, it may have looked like actual “sudden coronavirus deaths.”
- In many cases, video titles or descriptions suggested or claimed the videos showed “sudden coronavirus deaths”, but in no case was this suggested or claimed by Chinese authorities; instead, it was social media and Western media promoting this frightening narrative.
- It looks like most of these videos were shared internationally not by people close to the Chinese regime, but by people and groups opposed to the Chinese regime (e.g. by ‘Voice of Hong Kong’ and ‘Badiucao’), who wanted to show that the Chinese regime had lost control. The video compilation below, for instance, was published by Taiwan-based news platform TomoNews US.
The most famous photograph of a “dead man lying in the streets of Wuhan”, used by many Western media outlets (see above and here), was produced and distributed not by Chinese journalists or officials, but by AFP/Getty war zone and international crisis photographer Hector Retamal, who later won awards for this photograph. French Agence France Press (AFP) is one of only three major Western news agencies and was previously involved in various war zone deceptions (e.g. in Syria).
Furthermore, it is noteworthy that the first English-language mention of the alleged “Chinese whistleblower doctor” Li Wenliang (who later died or disappeared) came from “China Change”, an “NGO” funded by the US National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a US government controlled entity that sponsors opposition groups in adversarial countries.
This again might indicate that Western state actors either tried to leverage the situation in China, or tried to “frame” China (the real origin of the virus remaining unknown to this day). In contrast, the Chinese government itself primarily tried to downplay the situation, and continues to do so.
While antibody data indicates that by April 2020, coronavirus prevalence outside of Wuhan city and Hubei province was near zero (despite domestic travel in January 2020), China has experienced repeated local outbreaks and continues to impose extreme lockdown and quarantine measures.
If any of these videos really showed someone collapsing due to the coronavirus, it may have been due to a sudden cardiac arrest caused by viral myocarditis (heart muscle inflammation), or a major heart attack, stroke, or embolism. Such cases have been observed even in the US and in Germany.
In conclusion, there is currently no evidence that the “collapsing people” videos of January 2020 were a “Sun Tzu style” Chinese psyop. Instead, they may have been part of the “mass psychosis” at the time, leveraged by clickbaiters and hoaxers and Western media, or they may have been part of a Western psyop against China, against the Western population, or both.
Read more: The Propaganda Pandemic (February 2022)