A 59-year-old man in Chongqing, China, is facing criminal charges for threatening to kill himself with firecrackers and gasoline because his birthday party was canceled by officials worried about the coronavirus epidemic.
Reuters on Wednesday summarized reports of the odd case from Chinese state media:
The resident of the southwestern city of Chongqing planned a birthday banquet for more than ten tables of guests on Jan. 28, the state-run agency said on Wednesday, but local officials battling the outbreak asked him to cancel the plan.
But on Jan. 26, after the man failed to convince them to let the party go ahead, he wrapped firecrackers round his waist, poured gasoline on his chest and held up a lighter, trying to threaten them into agreeing.
“The actions prevented town and village cadres from carrying out epidemic prevention and control work,” Xinhua said, adding that 10 patients visiting a clinic on a lower level of the same building had also been affected.
It was not immediately clear what kind of penalties the man would face if convicted.
According to other reports quoted by the U.K. Daily Mail, the man argued with local officials, then threatened to immolate himself in an effort to “scare and threaten the village committee into allowing the birthday party.” Prosecutors have charged him with disorderly conduct.
China has imposed widespread bans against large gatherings and public activities to slow the spread of the coronavirus. One of the early missteps in the virus saga was an enormous annual banquet with thousands of participants that was allowed to proceed in the city of Wuhan a few days before the Chinese government admitted the virus could be spread by human contact and decided to quarantine the entire city.