Hundreds of Prisoners Test Positive for Coronavirus in China, 11 Officials Sacked

By Frank Fang
Frank Fang
Frank Fang
Frank Fang is a Taiwan-based journalist. He covers US, China, and Taiwan news. He holds a master's degree in materials science from Tsinghua University in Taiwan.
February 21, 2020Updated: February 21, 2020

The novel coronavirus has spread to Chinese prisons in at least three provinces, resulting in 11 officials recently being sacked for their failure to contain the disease.

Two hundred prisoners and seven prison wardens tested positive for the virus as of Feb. 20 at Rencheng prison in eastern China’s Shandong Province, reported news portal Sina on Feb. 21, after tests were conducted on 2,077 people relating to the prison.

The test results were announced by the provincial government in Shandong in a press conference Friday morning.

The testing came after one of the prison wardens was isolated after going to a local hospital over a cough on Feb. 12. The warden tested positive for the virus on the following day. On that same day, another warden also tested positive for the virus.

In response to the outbreak at Rencheng Prison, the standing committee of Shandong’s provincial government decided to remove eight officials from their positions, including Xie Weijun, who was party secretary of both Shandong’s prisons bureau and the province’s justice department, and Liu Yishan, who was both the party secretary and the prison chief of Rencheng, China’s state-run media People’s Net reported on Friday.

The eight officials were removed because of “poor prevention work,” according to People’s Net.

In the coastal province of Zhejiang, the local provincial government announced Friday morning on its official Weibo account that there are 27 additional inmates at Shili Feng Prison in the province who had tested positive for the virus.

With the 27 new cases, there are now 34 known cases at the prison.

Two unnamed officials have been removed from their positions in response to the infection cases at Shili Feng, including the prison chief.

At central China’s Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak, the provincial government announced on its official website on Friday afternoon that there are 271 confirmed cases in the province’s prisons, including 230 in a women’s prison in the province’s capital of Wuhan.

There are also 41 cases at Sha Yanghan prison in Hubei.

The Hubei announcement said the prison chief at the women’s prison had similarly been removed because of “poor prevention work.”

A warden at Sha Yanghan has also been “severely reprimanded” over a failure to “honestly report” what happened inside the prison.