The Chinese government is keen for the world to know that the radical measures it's taken to contain the coronavirus — including the lockdown of 50 million people for six weeks — have worked.
And so, Vice Premier Sun Chunlan visited the epicenter of the outbreak, Wuhan, on Thursday to take a tour through the residential areas of the city to show how normal everything is.
Except there were no people around. Instead, the residents of Kaiyuan Mansion in Qingshan District shouted at Sun from their high-rise apartments, “Fake, fake?” “It’s all fake,” “It’s a show put on for you. Everything is faked!”
Others shouted “What you are seeing is fake” and “They are taking advantage of the people to put up a show.”
Videos of the incident show Sun, surrounded by dozens of other officials, walking through an estate that's been cordoned off. The residents were specifically criticizing the property management having people pretend they were delivering fresh vegetables and meat to the apartments.
Residents in the buildings have been on lockdown since Jan. 22, and many have relied solely on property management group to supply food and other necessities.
The incident marks a very rare public rebuke of government officials by Chinese citizens, who typically fear for their lives for speaking out against the government and their president-for-life Xi Jinping.
Footage of the shouting residents quickly spread virally online, and even the People’s Daily, a state-run media outlet, tweeted about it — though the tweet was quickly deleted.
However, the central government now appears to be trying to use the situation to its advantage, pinning the blame on local officials in order to deflect any criticism of Beijing’s handling of the outbreak.
The nationalistic Global Times said Friday that the local government in Wuhan has been ordered to “investigate and solve the problem immediately.”
Beijing has worked hard to limit the spread of negative news related to the coronavirus, in particular any criticism of Xi or the central government. It has erased anger at the death of a whistleblowing doctor, silenced WeChat accounts around the globe, and disappeared three citizen journalists who were posting videos about life in Wuhan during the lockdown.
Cover: Chinese Vice Premier Sun Chunlan, also a member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of China Central Committee, inspects a research base of the Academy of Military Medical Sciences, in central China's Hubei Province, Feb. 29, 2020. (Photo by Li He/Xinhua via Getty) (Xinhua/Li He via Getty Images)