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  • The official death toll from the outbreak of coronavirus

  • in China keeps rising.

  • And while the deadly virus spreads,

  • public anger is building.

  • So far, this has mostly been directed at officials in Wuhan,

  • the city at the centre of the outbreak.

  • Their shortcomings in dealing with the virus

  • were confirmed by Zhou Xianwang, mayor

  • of the city, who confessed this week that authorities

  • had failed to make timely disclosures.

  • In fact, it took six weeks since the first reported case

  • of the pneumonia in early December

  • before the Wuhan government decided

  • to sound a general alarm.

  • The delay has prompted several thousands of angry people

  • on social media in China to accuse

  • the mayor of neglecting his city,

  • and call for him to step down.

  • Such outbursts of public dissent are rare in China,

  • particularly during the rule of Xi Jinping,

  • China's authoritarian leader.

  • But rarer still are public displays

  • of disunity among the different levels of the Communist party

  • hierarchy.

  • But this is exactly what's happening this time.

  • Even as the mayor of Wuhan offered to resign and face

  • what he called the infamy of history,

  • he also laid responsibility for the slow reaction

  • to the virus at the door of the central government.

  • He appealed to people to understand

  • why Wuhan had failed to make timely disclosures

  • about the severity of the virus.

  • This was due, he said, to the fact

  • that the city had to wait for authorisation

  • to raise the alarm from Beijing.

  • Such authorisation took weeks to come.

  • All this is stirring dark memories

  • of China's last great pneumonia scourge.

  • The Sars outbreak of 2003, which eventually

  • killed some 800 people in 17 countries around the world.

  • That crisis was also worsened by cover-ups and underreporting

  • that lasted months.

  • The fallout from Sars rocked the Chinese government,

  • and resulted in the firing of the minister of health

  • and the mayor of Beijing.

  • The current signs of disunity within Chinese officialdom

  • hint at the intense pressures that arise during public health

  • crises.

  • As food prices surge, factories shut or go slow,

  • and cities all over the country restrict the movement

  • of people, there is no doubt that the coronavirus outbreak

  • ranks as the biggest crisis that Mr Xi has had to face

  • since he took power in 2012.

The official death toll from the outbreak of coronavirus

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    林宜悉 posted on 2020/03/07
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