BEIJING (Reuters) – “It’s fake! It’s fake!” residents high up in an apartment complex in the central Chinese city of Wuhan shouted down as a senior government official led an inspection tour below of how people were coping during the coronavirus lockdown.
A woman wearing a face mask rides a shared bicycle past workers in protective suits who are resting in front of closed shops sealed off from the road, in Wuhan, the epicentre of the novel coronavirus outbreak, Hubei province, China March 6, 2020. REUTERS/Stringer CHINA OUT.
In a 15-second video clip, amid jeers and yelling, some residents accused employees of their residential complex of staging the delivery of groceries to households merely to coincide with the visit of Vice Premier Sun Chunlan.
While some expressions of anger against local-level officials during the epidemic have been permitted on China’s heavily censored social media, the video was a rare glimpse of unscripted anger involving a top central government official.
The residents are still confined to their homes under measures imposed in February to try to contain the coronavirus outbreak, which was traced to a market that was illegally selling wildlife in the city.
By mid-February residents were not permitted to shop for provisions, and the local government promised to ensure mass deliveries of groceries.
While those deliveries have been made in many places, the protesters were saying the delivery during Sun’s visit was a set-up.
The clip, shot by an unknown individual, went viral on Chinese social media, and was even allowed by censors to trend on the top 10 searches on Friday morning on Weibo, China’s equivalent to Twitter.
The official People’s Daily acknowledged the veracity of the video and even posted it on its English-language Twitter feed before removing it on Friday.
The government group, led by Sun, said it would investigate the matter thoroughly, and “eliminate formalism and bureaucracy”, the People’s Daily reported.
Wuhan city officials have sent people door-to-door to investigate immediately, the article said.
For many citizens, the video post provided a release.
“It’s fake it’s fake! They’ve shouted what is in the hearts of many of us citizens,” said one user on Weibo. “Finally, there’s someone saying what I’ve wanted to say for years.”
China has blamed and removed dozens of local-level officials as anger built up over its early handling of the spread of the new coronavirus that has killed which has killed more than 3,300 people globally, mostly in China.
Last month, the death from coronavirus of a doctor who had been reprimanded for issuing an early warning about the disease triggered a rare public outpouring of anger against the government online.
Reporting by Huizhong Wu; additional reporting by Cate Cadell; Editing by Tony Munroe and Alison Williams