Police and security forces are deployed in the flats overlooking the streets visited by Xi Jinping. High school and college students forced to follow online political lessons that enhance Xi’s role. People are tired massive propaganda. A book on the Party's fight against coronavirus has been silently withdrawn from bookstores. Nurses have been used as propaganda tools. Nothing is being said about the doctors censored for reporting the epidemic.
Beijing (AsiaNews) – According to many Wuhan residents, the city at the centre of the coronavirus outbreak, Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Wuhan was a "show”.
President Xi arrived in Wuhan and visited hospitals and local residential areas today. According to state-run news agency Xinhua, Xi went to Huoshenshan Hospital, a temporary hospital especially built for coronavirus patients.
Xinhua’s photos show Xi in a well decorated conference room talking to medical staff and patients via video. Meanwhile, Chinese official media said that all temporary hospitals in stadiums were closed.
In Wuhan, local residents shared photos and videos on social media showing police in residents’ homes (pictures 2 and3). Police officers are seen sitting at balconies facing the street Xi visited. Videos also show that massive police presence disappeared once Xi left the residential area.
Several days before, residents shouted “Fake! It was all fake!” when Deputy Premier Sun Chunlan visited a residential area in Wuhan, sparking public attention.
Schools and universities are still closed in China. China’s Ministry of Education ordered college and universities students to watch online political course emphasizing Xi’s leadership and the power of the Communist Party.
Admittedly, the epidemic has dented the reputation of Communist Party and its top leaders in Beijing are making every effort to rebuild trust and control public opinion. Official media have emphasised Xi’s role. When the epidemic began, Xi named Premier Li Keqiang to lead the fight against the epidemic but now Li has been marginalised.
A feeling of discontent is simmering amid the slack economy affected by the epidemic. Beijing is starting to realise that people are tired of heavy propaganda that is proving counterproductive.
Wuhan Communist Party secretary Wang Zhonglin asked people to show their gratitude to the Central Party and Xi Jinping, but this was met with a public backlash. Wang’s speeches were removed from official media.
In late February, the Propaganda Department of Communist Party announced the publication of a book highlighting Xi’s role: “A Battle Against Epidemic: China Combatting Covid-19 in 2020”. Since then, the high-profile book silently disappeared from online bookshops.
Though official media praise the work of medical staff, their voices have been muffled. Doctors like Li Wenliang, who disclosed the epidemic in the early stage, were warned off by police. Li Wenliang is the ophthalmologist at the Wuhan Central Hospital who died from the infection. Two other ophthalmologists at the same hospital also passed away. Official media have not mentioned that those two ophthalmologists were Li’s colleagues.
Beijing is now praising Dr Li Wenliang as a loyal member of Communist Party but has censored reports about him. Li’s mother insisted Li was innocent and wants an explanation from authorities. Beijing announced an inquiry into Li’s death after he passed away in early February without results. Police who warned Li and official media that accused him of being a rumour monger have not been punished.
Ai Fen, a doctor at the Wuhan Central Hospital, told the media that she was warned by a top hospital official about sharing information online. Dr Ai said that she was blamed and felt overburdened seeing more colleagues infected. The interview with Ai Fen was quickly deleted.
Beijing has admitted that more than 3,000 medical workers were infected up to January. Pregnant medical workers asking to work and shaved nurses appeared in official media (picture 4).
The government said that the nurses voluntarily agreed to be shaved for health reasons. Many people have criticised the authorities for using women as propaganda tools.