China ‘Punishes’ Local Officials After Coronavirus Patient Hangs Himself

A medical staff member wearing protective clothing to help stop the spread of a deadly virus which began in the city, is seen on a ambulance at the Wuhan Red Cross Hospital in Wuhan on January 25, 2020. - The Chinese army deployed medical specialists on January 25 to the …
HECTOR RETAMAL/AFP via Getty

Chinese state media revealed Sunday that four local Communist Party officials in Wuhan had been “punished” after a suspected coronavirus patient hanged himself.

Wuhan, a city of 11 million, is the epicenter of the current novel coronavirus outbreak, believed to have been triggered by locals selling and eating wild game meat at an open market. The Chinese communist regime shut the market down nearly a month before alerting the general public to the presence of a contagious disease, allowing millions to leave Wuhan for the Lunar New Year holiday and hospitals to treat coronavirus patients in the same quarters as other sensitive patients.

The result of the Communist Party’s failures has been an outbreak affecting over 70,000 people worldwide and killing over 1,000, most of them in China.

Reports have surfaced of hospitals in Wuhan turning potential coronavirus patients away, significantly limiting local health officials’ ability to track the disease but artificially deflating the number of confirmed cases in the World Health Organization (WHO)’s tally. Suppressing the real numbers can help give the impression that the outbreak is more contained and less of an emergency than it is.

Locals in Wuhan have revealed through anonymous reports that, for weeks, hospitals told walk-in patients that they only had permission to test “authorized” patients for coronavirus – that is, patients with special hospital approval, not merely patients with fever, difficulty breathing, or other visible symptoms. Those turned away were, in many cases, quarantined at home. Videos surfacing online showed Communist Party authorities bolting and welding shut the doors of families believed to have been exposed to the virus.

One of those cases of patients turned away, the state-run Global Times revealed on Monday, resulted in a suicide. The propaganda outlet identified the man only as “Cheng” and said that officials received information that the man had exhibited signs of carrying the virus, but did not offer him any medical attention.

“Cheng eventually hanged himself to death,” the Global Times noted.

The case shares similarities with a suicide in India last week. Bala Krishna, a 50-year-old farmer, fell ill and ultimately hanged himself. Unlike Cheng, however, Krishna received medical treatment and was confirmed to not be a coronavirus carrier, instead suffering from another type of viral infection that doctors insisted did not pose a threat to his neighborhood or family. Krishna insisted that he had coronavirus, threw stones at relatives who tried to get close to him, and ultimately hanged himself.

Four local officials in Wuhan “have been punished for failing to report a patient suspected to be infected with the virus in time, which resulted in the patient’s death,” the newspaper said. It later specified that the “punishment” was a “warning from the Party for knowing about Cheng’s illness but failing to take the necessary measures in time” for two of the officials. The other two “were criticized,” it added.

The Chinese government has moved first against officials whose behavior prompted deaths outside of those diagnosed with coronavirus. The first firing of multiple officials in Hubei, for example, resulted from officials quarantining an entire family except for a 16-year-old with cerebral palsy, who died as he was left alone for six days and needed round-the-clock care to survive.

“I have two disabled sons. My older son Yan Cheng has cerebral palsy. He cannot move his body, he cannot speak or look after himself. He has already been at home by himself for six days, with nobody to bathe him or change his clothes and nothing to eat or drink,” the teen’s father wrote in a social media post the government later censored.

China Daily, another government propaganda newspaper, reported on Sunday that others in Hubei province, where Wuhan is located, had “been removed from office or disciplined” for similar failures in addressing the outbreak. Their cases received public repudiation through an announcement by the province’s Discipline Inspection Commission and Supervisory Commission, the Communist Party bureaucracy’s punitive agencies. While the article identified several individuals already known to have publicly lost their jobs, it revealed other cases of Communist Party officials fabricating data on the viral outbreak, “acting irresponsibly,” and working “by phone”:

Wang Gonghua, deputy director of the standing committee of the Danjiangkou people’s congress, made up work logs. Wang Xujie, chairman of the Yunxi county committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, loosely implemented quarantine rules, as did Zheng Zhongtan, deputy director of Yunxi county’s legislature, who carried out the work by phone.

Two other typical cases featured local Party committees acting irresponsibly by allowing banquets and public gatherings. You Hao and Liu Yu, Party chiefs of Chunmuying and Maobei townships in Enshi Tujia and Miao autonomous prefecture, were both removed from their posts.

Allowing public events is believed to be one of the ways in which the number of coronavirus cases grew into the tens of thousands. The weekend before China alerted the world to the existence of a previously unidentified type of coronavirus originating in Wuhan, the city attempted to break the world record for largest banquet with an annual Lunar New Year feast. The event attracted about 130,000 people and was primarily targeted at older “empty nest” residents whose children could not be home for the holiday. Elderly coronavirus patients are believed to make up most of the global death toll.

Beijing-based Communist Party propaganda has also disparaged Wuhan officials for causing unnecessary trauma to coronavirus patients. Last week, the Global Times revealed a harrowing incident in which local officials attempted to transfer elderly coronavirus patients to a new hospital. They did not use a specialized hospital vehicle; a public bus driver was expected to drive a large number of elderly patients – for which the bus did not have enough seats – to the hospital without directions. Neither the driver nor the patients received any protective care and the driver got lost for hours. The Global Times documented “several emotional breakdowns” on the driver’s part alone.

Just as it has shifted all blame for the coronavirus outbreak on local officials, Beijing government media has given all praise for any positive responses to the outbreak to dictator Xi Jinping and senior Communist Party officials. Xi punished the text of a recent speech as an opinion column in state media Monday, declaring himself the leader of the outbreak response and urging full obedience to Beijing from the people, a response to growing discontent against his leadership in the country. Xinhua, the government news service, also published a story claiming the international community is praising Xi personally for his handling of the outbreak.

At press time, global health authorities have identified 71,812 confirmed cases of coronavirus worldwide and 1,775 deaths, nearly all of them in China. Cases have been confirmed in Europe, Africa, and North America as well as other countries of Asia.

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.

 

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