Boy’s death makes Chinese revolt with “Covid zero” policy

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The death of a 3-year-old boy after an alleged gas leak in a gated residential complex in northwest China unleashed a new wave of outrage over the country’s strict zero Covid policy.

The boy’s father said in a social media post that Covid workers had tried to stop him from leaving his compound in Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu province, to seek treatment for his son – causing a delay he believes was fatal.

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A post by the father on Wednesday regarding the death of his son was met with an outpouring of anger and grief from the public, with several hashtags related stories racking up hundreds of millions of views the next day on Weibo, the Chinese platform similar to Twitter.

“Three years of pandemic was your whole life,” read one popular comment.

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It’s the latest tragedy that has fueled a growing backlash against China’s relentless zero Covid policy, which continues to disrupt everyday life with incessant lockdowns, quarantines and mass testing mandates even as the rest of the world gets over the pandemic.

Numerous similar cases have involved people who died after being denied immediate access to emergency medical care during lockdowns – despite insistence by Chinese officials, including leader Xi Jinping, that the country’s Covid policies “put people and their lives in the first place”.

Blocked for a month

Large parts of Lanzhou, including the neighborhood where the boy’s family lives, have been closed since early October.

The boy’s father said his wife and son became ill around noon on Tuesday, showing signs of gas poisoning. The mother’s condition improved after she received CPR from the father, but the boy fell into a coma, according to the man’s post.

The father said he made several attempts to call an ambulance and the police, but failed. He said he then went to ask Covid workers who were enforcing the lockdown on his complex for help, but was turned away and told to seek help from authorities in his community or continue calling an ambulance.

Workers asked him to show a negative Covid test result, but he was unable to do so as no tests had been performed at the complex in the previous 10 days.

He became desperate and ended up taking his son outside, where a “good-hearted” resident hailed a taxi to take them to the hospital, he wrote.

However, it was too late when they arrived and the doctors were unable to save their son.

“My son 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 from the boy’s house – 10 minutes by car.

The father claimed in his post that the police did not show up until after taking his son to the hospital. But local police said in a statement on Tuesday that they immediately rushed to the scene after receiving a cry for help from the public and helped send two people, including the child, to the hospital 14 minutes later.

The police statement said the child died of carbon monoxide poisoning and the mother remained in hospital in stable condition – but did not mention whether the lockdown measures had delayed her treatment.

CNN reached out to Lanzhou officials and the boy’s father for comment. The father did not respond.

On Thursday, Lanzhou authorities issued a statement expressing grief over the child’s death and condolences to his family. They promised to “deal seriously” with staff and work units that failed to facilitate the boy’s timely rescue.

“We learned a painful lesson from this incident… and we will put people and their lives first in our work in the future,” the statement said.

demand for answers

The boy’s death also aroused the anger of local residents. videos circulating on social media show residents taking to the streets to demand a response from the authorities.

One shows a woman yelling at officers draped from head to toe in protective gear. “Ask your leader to come here and tell us what happened today,” she yells. In another, a man sings, “Give me back my freedom!”

Other videos show several buses with SWAT officers arriving at the scene.

One shows ranks of officers in protective gear marching down the street; several others show residents clashing with uniformed police who hold shields and wear helmets and masks.

CNN cannot independently verify the videos, but a resident who lives nearby confirmed to CNN that he saw police SWAT team approaching.

“They shouted ‘one, two, one’ (as they marched down the street) so loud they could be heard 500 meters away,” the resident said.

He lamented Lanzhou’s “excessive epidemic prevention and lockdowns” and what he said was increasingly stringent censorship.

“Now, even knowing the truth has become an extravagant hope,” he said. “Who knows how many similar incidents have happened across the country?”

In his social media post, the father said he was approached by someone who claimed to work for a “civil organization” and was offered 100,000 yuan (about US$14,000). 72,063.60 ) on the condition that he sign an agreement promising not to seek accountability from the authorities.

“I didn’t sign. All I want is an explanation (for my son’s death),” he wrote. “I want (them) to tell me directly, why didn’t they let me go right away?”

The father’s posts on Weibo and Baidu, another online site, reporting the incident disappeared Wednesday night.

Source: CNN Brasil

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