China Apologizes for ‘Health Worker’ Pinning Knee on Neck of Coronavirus ‘Close Contact’

Sam Bloomberg-Rissman/Getty Images, Radio Free Asia/Twitter

Local police in Yinchuan, China – part of the region home to the nation’s Hui Muslims – apologized on Wednesday after a video began circulating of an apparent health worker slamming a man to the ground and pinning his knee on the man’s neck.

The Communist Party later clarified that the “health worker” was a police officer attempting to imprison the victim in a “hotel” following the regime identifying him as a “close contact” of someone who tested positive for Chinese coronavirus. The state-run Global Times propaganda outlet identified the victim as a man named “Peng” who suffered from mental illness and had left the quarantine “hotel” without permission.

The regime outlet did not attempt to justify the violence against the man but claimed that any further outrage about the abuse or China’s “zero-Covid” policy – which uses a wide array of human rights violations to allegedly reduce coronavirus infections – were unwarranted as local authorities had apologized.

The violent incident, which some social media users have compared to the death of Minnesota man George Floyd in 2020, is the latest in a long-running series of videos and photos of Chinese regime agents rampantly violating the human rights of citizens in the name of public health. Years of deadly lockdowns, imprisonments in brutal and unsanitary quarantine camps, and widespread deprivation of food and basic medicine have also made civil unrest a regular occurrence. While no reports suggest that Peng’s exit from the quarantine “hotel” was meant as a political statement, the past three months have experienced a surge in documented incidents of public protest, riots, and clashes with police nationwide.

The Global Times claimed that the video in question was recorded on November first in the Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region and suggested that it lacked context while acknowledging the alleged lack of training on the part of local police that presumably led to the brutality.

“The man who was frisked, surnamed Peng, was transferred to the hotel as a close contact for centralized quarantine,” the state outlet claimed. “On the morning of November 1, Peng violated the quarantine rules by leaving his room and going downstairs before rushing out the back door of the hotel without permission. After noticing the getaway, the police officers on duty chased and stopped Peng.”

The Global Times went on to identify Peng as being diagnosed with an unspecified “mental illness” and behaving in a “very emotional” way that resulted in police thrashing him on the group to prevent “social harm.”

“The law enforcement officers involved have made apologies, and the incident will be dealt with seriously after an investigation,” the state newspaper claimed, citing local police. The agents responsible allegedly spoke to Peng and apologized personally, then issued a formal apology to Chinese citizens for “the adverse social impact” of their behavior “and said they would learn a lesson.”

Peng left the quarantine “hotel” on November 4, the Chinese outlet added.

In a separate article on the incident, the Chinese propaganda outlet blamed ignorance for the outrage surrounding the abuse of Peng, even while already having noted that “grassroots” law enforcement problems are pervasive in China and authorities believed the incident merited an apology. The Global Times claimed that users of heavily censored Chinese social media outlets were sharing the video and claiming that Peng had left his hotel to buy medicine, which the outlet denied, again referring to Peng as a mental patient.

“If people only watch this video clip, it is easy to trigger the public’s imagination that ‘the man was going out for medical treatment during quarantine but was brutally stopped,'” the Times lamented.

The newspaper concluded that the actions of the police in later apologizing to Peng were “practical, realistic, and sincere,” essentially closing the case of rampant human rights abuses linked to “zero-Covid” in the country.

The Chinese Communist Party has imposed its policy, “zero-Covid,” since the Chinese coronavirus pandemic began in central Wuhan city in late 2019. It has faced growing criticism for imposing city-wide lockdowns that have resulted in preventable deaths from starvation, lack of access to health care or medicine, and suicide. The World Health Organization (W.H.O.), which had long defended China from global criticism for its poor handling of the early days of the pandemic, condemned China in May for continuing to impose lockdowns, calling the strategy “not sustainable.”

The Communist Party has attempted to rebrand “zero-Covid” in recent months as “dynamic” and “evolved,” this month debuting a set of 20 alleged reforms to the policies that require less frequent mandatory testing and fewer restrictions for travelers from abroad.

In cities like Yinchuang or Guangzhou, a southern metropolis of 15 million people, Chinese officials have imposed localized neighborhood lockdowns and imposed mass internment in quarantine camps to create the impression that the regime has softened on lockdowns generally.

“To prevent excessive measures adopted by some local authorities, considering the severe threat of the rapidly spreading virus, health officials also vowed to strengthen crackdowns on such approaches in order to guarantee full implementation of the 20 measures for optimizing epidemic response,” the Global Times announced on Tuesday.

In reality, the lockdowns continue in different forms. In Beijing, for example, authorities “advised” locals not to leave their homes but did not officially call for a lockdown, using threats to achieve the same end. Beijing officials announced the first three deaths attributed to coronavirus infection – in residents aged 87, 88, and 91 – this week since May 26. The three deaths are far fewer than the deaths documented, and admitted to by China, as a result of “zero-Covid” policies.

In Guangzhou, rather than locking down residents in many areas, the government announced this week “plans to add more than 240,000 beds in makeshift hospitals and centralized quarantine zones,” locking them down in government facilities rather than at home. Even the limited lockdown in Guangzhou, located in the Haizhu neighborhood, prompted significant unrest, triggering a riot in which trapped residents overturned at least one police car and brawled against health workers in hazmat suits on the street.

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.


Please let us know if you're having issues with commenting.