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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Radio Free Asia

Wuhan Residents Heckle China's Vice Premier Over Lack of Food, Supplies

2020-03-06 -- Residents of a housing project in the central city of Wuhan heckled a top ruling Chinese Communist Party official on Thursday with shouts of "Fake!" after being told to stay home during his visit to their compound.

Video posted to YouTube and Twitter showed vice premier Sun Chunlan and her entourage walking through the grounds of the Kaiyuan housing compound in Wuhan's Qingshan district on Thursday, as part of Sun's "inspection" of epidemic control and prevention in the city.

Residents were told by the local residential committee to stay in their homes during the visit, but they made their views known nonetheless.

No sooner had Sun placed herself in front of a TV camera than shouts of "Fake! Fake!" and "Everything [they say] is fake!" began raining down from apartments in the tower blocks above.

After Sun left, a message was posted to the Qingshan Kaiyuan WeChat group.

"During the visit of vice premier Sun Chunlan and municipal party secretary Wang Zhonglin ... the landlord wouldn't let us go downstairs, and they even staged the delivery of meat and vegetables to residents by 'volunteers'," the message said.

"Everyone shouted that the goods were fake, and that the landlord wasn't doing anything [about supplies], and that things are really hard," it said.

"The municipal party secretary and the vice premier scuttled away before they'd completed more than half of their visit," the message said. "Pretty sure the local leaders ... will be getting criticized."

"A lot of people have just arrived from the residential committee, and are going door-to-door collecting questions and issues from residents," it said.

Social, political tensions

Social and political tensions are rising in Wuhan, which has been under total quarantine lockdown for more than six weeks, and which has borne the brunt of COVID-19 infections and deaths.

Food prices have skyrocketed in a city where some 11 million people are prevented from traveling or accessing supplies without official passes and permits, while aid and food donations are being commandeered or left to rot owing to corruption or a lack of delivery infrastructure.

Residents are angry that recent announcements that the city authorities would slap controls on pork prices haven't been implemented, largely because there isn't any pork available to buy in many areas.

Online comments applauded the hecklers.

"So there are still heroes in Qingshan!" read one comment, while another from Wuhan said: "The sound of these shouts will echo through history!"

"Telling the emperor to get some clothes on, face to face!" said another, while another called the heckles "precious." "It feels so good to shout out the truth," said another.

Chinese official media reports indicated that Sun later reprimanded local officials for trying to cover up tensions.

The Global Times newspaper, which has close ties to Communist Party mouthpiece the People's Daily, confirmed that the online video clips did indeed portray Sun's visit to the Wuhan housing complex.

It said more than 3,000 people had been drafted into the compound to visit residents and to understand their specific demands and requirements.

Awards spark controversy

Meanwhile, the authorities have issued an award to late whistleblowing doctor Li Wenliang, who died of COVID-19 after being summoned by police for speaking out in the early stages of the epidemic about a "SARS-like virus" that was emerging in Wuhan.

Li received the award alongside hundreds of others deemed to have made outstanding contributions to epidemic prevention work, including respiratory diseases expert Wang Guangfa, prompting anger among rights activists.

"If they admit it was wrong to punish Li Wenliang, then they are negating their own censorship and controls on the freedom of speech," Guangzhou-based rights activist Wang Aizhong told RFA.

"Obviously this is a bid to appease public anger," Wang said.

Wang's name has become synonymous with the government cover up after he traveled to Wuhan in the early stages of the outbreak and pronounced it "preventable and controllable."

He later contracted COVID-19 himself, among more than 80,000 people in mainland China to do so.

"Li Wenliang and the healthcare workers all gave something of value in terms of disease prevention and control, as well as patient treatment," Wang Aizhong said.

"But Wang Guangfa is responsible for the ... spread of the epidemic, so it is clearly inappropriate to count him as someone who contributed."

Wuhan-based writer Fang Fang wrote on Thursday that Wang Guangfa owed a debt to the people of his city.

The debt must be repaid, if the souls of thousands of dead people were to be laid to rest, Fang Fang wrote.

Of the 3,408 deaths attributed globally to COVID-19 by Friday, 2,931 have been in China's Hubei province, of which Wuhan is the capital.

Reported by Gao Feng for RFA's Mandarin and Cantonese Services.Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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