zondag, mei 3, 2020

In the light of celebration of 75 years of Freedom, the editors of Ander Nieuws asked Uyên Lu to share her experiences with freedom and the loss of it.


Our Fragile Freedom

‘Chinese, Chinese! Wuhan, Wuhan’! yells a young blonde girl to me in English as she passes me on her bike in the opposite direction. To be sure I look back to see if that comment was perhaps not meant for me, but besides us, the street was completely empty.

I notice that I am more stunned than angry at her comment. I am not Chinese and definitely not from Wuhan. As if we were connected, we both look back at each other. The girl decides to throw a last comment at me: ‘Woeeehan, Woehoeee ...!’ as she disappears around the corner. It was on Saturday the 13th of March 2020. The Corona is still far away, hidden somewhere in Northern Italy and Noord-Brabant. Here up North there is nothing yet to fear. The virus from Wuhan seems like an amusing joke to the girl.

Unfortunately, I know better. In Channel News Asia (CNA) and South China Morning Post (SCMP) I read on the 20th of January that in the past weekend 139 were newly infected and three deceased cases from the deadly coronavirus. And that is just before the Chinese New Year on the 25th, when citizens as per tradition gather in masses. That very same day I warned my friends in Vietnam and urged them to avoid the annual festival. Thankfully some heeded my warning.

Although the coronavirus outbreak was already well underway, and the first casualties were reported, the Chinese government continued the ‘Thousand House Banquet’ festival for some forty thousand citizens in Wuhan. A few days after this mass gathering, all inhabitants of 57 apartment buildings in a residential community of 130,000 people were labeled to have a ‘fever’ because dozens of guests became infected. The coronavirus outbreak could not have been timed worse. During the Chinese New Year, more than four hundred million citizens will migrate around the country. This large-scale movement certainly helped spread the virus outbreak even further.

Since the end of December, I have followed the news regarding COVID-19 in newspapers such as CNA, SCMP, HKFP, BBC, and Taiwan News. Numerous reports indicate that doctors in China have been silenced when they wanted to warn the world about the coronavirus. Human Rights Watch has also rung the bell on the gross violation of human rights within China regarding the virus. The death toll and the amount of infected cases in Asia rises at an alarming rate, while contradicting information spreads regarding the symptoms and illness progression.

I keep a close eye on the reports of the World Health Organization. Will they question China regarding the safety and freedom of their medical experts? Will they send experts to research the dangers of this SARS-like virus? Will they warn the world in time about the gravity of the situation?

In the end, none of this. The WHO on the other hand, extensively commends China for its effective response to the corona outbreak and keeps sending reassuring reports to the world.

Tweet of President Trump on march 9, 2020 downsizing the outbreak of coronavirus The Western world leaders take these at face value and remain completely passive. There are many indications that Tedros, Director-General of the WHO, is a puppet of Xi Jinping. He was nominated by Xi himself for this specific function, even though he has a horrendous reputation in his homeland.

There he is known for spreading terror and corruption on behalf of the Communist Party. Under the pressure from Xi Taiwan was excluded from the WHO. As a result, Taiwan is fighting the pandemic while deprived of any help and information from the WHO about the coronavirus.

Early February I decided to sign a global petition in 13 languages (including my Vietnamese version) to demand the resignation of Tedros as the WHO General Director and thereby maintain the credibility of the WHO. This petition has raised over 1 million signatures.

In my immediate environment, I try to bring up the subject of the coronavirus carefully, but I find little response. I worry too much, it is just mild flu and I have to be careful not to be too anti-China. I cannot beat that much sobriety. I ‘unfriend’ some Dutch friends on Facebook, which I rarely do, in fear that they might feel spammed by my reports regarding the coronavirus.

MInister-president op 16 maart 2020 Only after the press conference on March 16 of our Prime Minister, in which the ‘intelligent lockdown’ shows the gravity of the situation, the Netherlands begins to feel the heat. I am probably the only one who breathes a sigh of relief. For the first time in a long while I no longer feel like a voice crying in the wilderness.

Despite the prohibition of all flights coming from Wuhan, Italy is starting to look like a warzone. Even a complete lockdown had little effect.

Military convoys drove down the streets to take away thousands of corpses. In the Netherlands, everything happened fast after March 16. In only a few weeks' time thousands of innocents will have become infected or died. I now read Europe giving the same reports as in Asia two months prior. Had people realized earlier how lethal the coronavirus would be, a decent amount of social and economic disasters could have been prevented?

What I am left with is the feeling of frustration and powerlessness. For months I collected information, images, figures, and opinions from experts. I blogged about this for nights. Each time new – sometimes dark – facts about the virus, the clinical picture, China, and the WHO surfaced. The deadly virus from Wuhan is coming, but the Netherlands is completely unprepared, neither mentally nor physically.

The Netherlands currently does not possess sufficient amounts of mouth masks, protective gear, and necessary respiratory equipment. We are forced to order these goods from China. And China would not be China if they wouldn’t seek to gain from this economically or politically. I remember wanting to order these masks from a pharmacy in early February, but even back then their supplies had dried up. Later I found out that in early January Chinese companies not only bought up the supplies of masks, disinfectant gels, personal protective gear, but also respiratory equipment from Philips among others, and had shipped them back to China.

It wounds me to see that we were too late, because we are too trusting or not critical enough about China’s practices. In the dark times of recent months, there was actually a silver lining. At the meeting on ‘Inclusive democracy’ on March 10, in Dudok, The Hague, where Kathleen Ferrier (*)  functioned as one of the panel members, she warned us of the dangerous ‘Tsunami from China’ that is heading our way.

And Frans van Houten, CEO of Philips openly criticizes on a talk show of BNNVARA on March 30: ‘The whole world was not watching China closely enough’.

No I am not against China as a country, because I know what it is like to live under a communist regime. And no, I am not in favor of US President Trump labeling the virus as the ‘Chinese virus’. The entire Chinese population inside and outside China is infected with it, they themselves are victims of the virus too. Beside this, it also breeds discrimination. In the media many videos go around in which Chinese-looking people are cursed at and abused, because they are seen as responsible for creating and spreading the coronavirus.

As for myself, on my last train journey from my job to my home, before the first ‘intelligent lockdown’ I was verbally abused by a train conductor for the first time in my life. He distressed me as I accidentally opened my train ticket wrongly and too slowly in his eyes. He started swearing and ranting at me.  I apologized for the tardiness but to no avail. He kept yelling. The other passengers looked away. Only a young lady wearing a head scarf came to aid me and calmed him down.

Nederlandse vlagAs a Vietnamese boat refugee, I set foot on Dutch soil forty years ago. For the first time experienced safety and freedom again, after having lived under a dictatorship for 5 years. I know how it is to lose and win back safety and freedom. For forty years I have had many opportunities to develop myself and make my dreams come true. With enormous gratitude, I pour my heart and soul into helping people that have lost their freedom and safety. I like to commemorate the freedom fighters because without them I would not be sitting here.  With my background, I know how the communist system works in practice. Therefore I want to heed the Netherlands for the dark plans of Xi Jinping and his party. How ironic is it then that I too, am slowly becoming the target of the virus from Wuhan?!

This year and especially this weekend we commemorate that 75 years ago, 27 million soldiers around the world died in the struggle for freedom. Commemorating remains necessary, according to research(**) conducted by ARQ National Psychotrauma Center on behalf of the National Committee on May 4, and 5. Among other things, they want to know ‘how they can connect all the generations and groups with different backgrounds and experiences’. This to me seems to be essential because totalitarian regimes can emerge anytime and anywhere in any shape or size. They are often difficult to recognize for people born and raised in a democratic country. But it is precisely those dictators who can endanger our freedom. Commemorating together with all generations and groups helps to realize how fragile our freedom is.

Uyên Lu bij het herdenkingsmonument van gevallen soldaten in de Vietnam-oorlog in Los Angeles, Amerika in 2018It is now April 30(***). The Netherlands reports (****)  39.216 official infected cases, 4.795 cases resulting in death, countless people in quarantine and there is an immense amount of grief. The safety and health of people in health care is paramount at the moment. That is why I gladly give up some of my freedom of movement when extending the intelligent lockdown.

After a forced period of reflection, I sincerely hope that everyone can process the consequences of the coronavirus. ‘In the new normal’ I similarly to ‘the old normal’ will continue to provide mental aid as necessary.

In a few weeks, hopefully, the expected easing will arrive. For now, I really feel like for one time screaming at the top of my lungs: Chinese... Chinese... Wu... hu...  hu...  hu!

Uyên Lu

2020 April 30

(*) Kathleen Ferrier was a member of the house of representatives for the CDA from 2002 until 2012. After her Dutch political career she lived in Hong Kong from 2014 until 2018, where she taught Spanish language and culture at the Hong Kong Baptist University (HKBU). From 2019 Ferrier dons the chairmanship of the Dutch Unesco commission. Next to that Ferrier is chairwoman of the Stichting Martin Luther King lezing, whose goal it is to assist a just society through e.g. organizing the annual Martin Luther King lecture.

(**) Link to the research ARQ National Psychotrauma Center on behalf of the National Committee on May 4, and 5: https://www.4en5mei.nl/onderzoek/rituelen

(***) Today all boat refugees commemorate that 45 years ago the Vietnamese communists took power over South Vietnam. Because of this, a movement of refugees from South Vietnam started.

(****) The number of registered deaths, in reality, is at least one and a half times higher. This is due to the fact that not all deaths outside of hospitals have been tested or registered for COVID-19.