China’s Covid. Boy’s death in lockdown sparks backlash against zero-Covid policy
The death of a 3-year-old boy as a result of a suspected gas leak in a residential area in the northwest. China has sparked a new wave of outrage over the country’s strict zero-Covid policy.
The boy’s father claimed in a social media post that Covid workers tried to prevent him from leaving their compound in Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu province, to seek treatment for his child, causing a delay he said was fatal.
On Wednesday, a father’s post about his son’s death on social networks was met with an outpouring of public anger and grief. hashtags garnering hundreds of millions of views over the next day on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform.
“The three years of the pandemic were his whole life,” reads a popular commentary.
It’s the latest tragedy to spark a growing backlash against China’s relentless zero-covid policy, which continues to disrupt everyday life with relentless lockdowns, quarantines and mass testing mandates even as the rest of the world moves on from the pandemic.
In a number of similar cases, people have died after being denied rapid access to emergency medical care during the lockdowns, despite Chinese officials, including leader Xi Jinping, insisting that the country’s Covid policy “puts people and their lives first”. :
Large parts of Lanzhou, including the neighborhood where the boy’s family lives, have been locked down since early October.
The boy’s father said his wife and child both fell ill around noon Tuesday, showing signs of gas poisoning. After receiving CPR from the father, the mother’s condition improved, but the boy fell into a coma, according to the man’s social media post.
The father said that he made many attempts to call both an ambulance and the police, but he could not get out. He said he then went to seek help from the Covid workers who were enforcing the lockdown at their compound, but was turned away and told to seek help from officials in his community or continue to call an ambulance himself.
He said the workers asked him to show him a negative Covid test result, but he could not do so as no tests had been carried out at the complex in the previous 10 days.
Desperate, she eventually took her son outside, where a “kind-hearted” resident called a taxi to take them to the hospital, she writes.
However, their arrival was too late, and the doctors did not manage to save the son.
“My child could have been saved if he had been taken to the hospital sooner,” he wrote.
According to online maps, the hospital is just 3 kilometers (1.86 miles) from the boy’s home, a 10-minute drive.
The father claimed in a social media post that the police did not show up until after he took his son to the hospital. But local police said in a statement late Tuesday that they rushed to the scene after receiving a call for help from the public and helped send two people, including a child, to hospital 14 minutes later.
A police statement said the child died of carbon monoxide poisoning and the mother remained in a stable condition in hospital, but did not say whether the lockdown measures delayed their treatment.
CNN has reached out to both Lanzhou officials and the boy’s father for comment. The father did not react.
On Thursday, Lanzhou authorities issued a statement expressing condolences for the child’s death and offering condolences to his family. They promised to “seriously deal” with officials and work units that failed to help save the boy in time.
“We have learned an unfortunate lesson from this incident … and will put people and their lives first in our work in the future,” the statement said.
The boy’s death also sparked anger among local residents. Videos: Circulating on social media, residents are taking to the streets to demand answers from the authorities.
One shows a woman clad in head-to-toe hazmat suits screaming at officials. “Ask your boss to come over here and tell him what happened today,” he shouts. In another, a man chants. “Give me back my freedom!”
Other videos show several buses containing SWAT officers arriving at the scene.
One shows rows of officers in uniform marching down the street; others show residents in confrontations with uniformed police in shields, helmets and masks.
CNN could not independently verify the footage, but a resident who lives nearby confirmed to CNN that he saw SWAT officers enter the scene.
“One, two, one” (when walking down the street) they shouted so loudly that they could be heard from 500 meters away, the resident said.
He lamented Lanzhou’s “excessive epidemic prevention and containment” and what he said was increasingly strict censorship.
“Now even knowing the truth has become an extravagant hope,” he said. “Who knows how many similar cases have occurred across the country?”
In a social media post, the father said he was approached by someone claiming to work for a “civilian organization” and offered 100,000 yuan (about $14,000) on the condition that he sign a contract promising not to claim responsibility from the authorities. :
“I didn’t sign. I just want an explanation (for my son’s death),” he wrote. “I want (them) to tell me directly why they don’t let me go then.”
The father’s posts on Weibo and Baidu, another online site recounting the incident, both disappeared late Wednesday.
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