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Monday, September 20, 2021

Christmas is Canceled in the U.K., and it’s China’s Fault / Newsweek Opinion

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NIGEL FARAGE , REFORM UK LEADER AND SENIOR EDITOR-AT-LARGE, “THE DEBATE”
ON 12/22/20 AT 1:48 PM EST

Things could hardly be any worse. The British government has declared that a new “mutant” strain of coronavirus is spreading rapidly around the country and the world has reacted by making the U.K. a pariah state. Our citizens are banned from traveling almost anywhere and the French government has even closed the Channel Tunnel (though I suspect that is a negotiating tactic for the still unresolved Brexit talks). To top it all, Christmas has now been canceled.

Yet as other parts of the world continue to be hammered by COVID chaos, I have been astonished at how little criticism of China there has been. After all, not only can we be pretty sure that this virus came from a laboratory in Wuhan; we can be certain that the Chinese authorities covered it up while their people continued to fly all over the world. As the saying goes, “China lied, people died.” This week I discovered what is behind this eerie silence.

As I watched our prime minister, Boris Johnson, address the nation on Saturday evening to let us know that family gatherings are banned on Christmas Day and that everybody should stay at home, I felt a mounting anger. As a result, I tweeted: “Christmas cancelled. Thank you, China.” This was an expression of how I felt at the time and I soon discovered that I was far from alone. Social media commentary around this sentiment came thick and fast. More than 45,000 people retweeted my message in support and my digital team tells me it has been seen more than 20 million times on the platform to date.

This helps to illustrate that there are huge numbers of people who are angry with China over the virus, who are appalled at China’s brutal treatment of the Uyghur minority and who would like the West to be less dependent on this awful regime. So why do so few political leaders in the West voice any criticism?

The morning after my tweet was sent, Chen Weihua, who is employed by the state-owned China Daily newspaper as its EU bureau chief, made his presence known to me by firing off a couple of tweets condemning me. His tone was aggressive and he even resorted to bad language. In authoritarian terms which no doubt pleased his paymasters, one tweet instructed: “Wear a mask and stop talking s**t.” When he responded again, it was to call me a “Trump-like racist.” Had any British journalist employed by the state-owned BBC or, indeed, by any reputable media company, done the same thing, they would have been disciplined and possibly fired for this sort of behavior. I’m sure the same would be true in America. Journalists are paid to report facts and generate analysis. They are not supposed to act like menaces, bullies or thugs on behalf of their government.

China flag
A Chinese flag is seen at the landing site of the return module of China’s Chang’e-5 lunar probe in Siziwang Banner, in northern China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region on December 17, 2020.STR/AFP/GETTY

Soon after, another organ of the Chinese state, the Global Times, posted an article about me under the headline “Farage misleads with same old trick as UK suffers mutant coronavirus.” This article gloated about how life has returned to normal in China because of its wonderful government. By contrast, the democratic West has failed completely, it claimed. With every major global economy—other than China’s—having been plunged into economic disarray by COVID, this felt pretty rich to me.

I don’t mind being attacked and abused by the Chinese Communist Party, or by anybody else, for that matter. After all, I became well used to this sort of treatment during my 20 years in the European Parliament. But I do get the feeling that many people in public life simply don’t want this sort of attention and therefore choose to remain quiet. They look the other way because it is the easy option.

Now that I am in the sights of the Chinese Communist Party and its propaganda tools, I have no doubt that further onslaughts on my character may be around the corner. But their hostility towards me is just a small example of the challenge the entire world faces. The regime’s territorial ambitions in the South China Sea—and elsewhere—has led to other governments in the region which have tried to stand up to Beijing being lambasted in one form or another. Donald Trump’s White House has been hugely supportive of Taiwan and other nations that have suffered this antagonism. Will Joe Biden’s White House also stand firm?

My fear is that we are now heading towards a situation where no Western government has the courage to resist the Chinese state and expose it for what it is: a system which thinks nothing of crushing dissent and even murdering its own people in order to enforce its rules. We have made ourselves too dependent on China. Indeed, many members of the West’s political classes have effectively been bought and paid for. That fact should disturb everybody.

This pandemic was and is China’s fault and the West should demand reparations for the turmoil it has inflicted upon the world. This is a theme that I intend to pursue throughout 2021. In life, it is often good to be judged by your enemies. I am perfectly happy if the Chinese Communist Party doesn’t like me. Frankly, I take it as a compliment. But how many others are prepared to confront China and take the flak?

Nigel Farage is senior editor-at-large of Newsweek‘s “The Debate” platform.

The views expressed in this article are the writer’s own.

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