Chinese Netizens Angry at Beijing’s Public Mourning Over Virus Victims

Chinese Netizens Angry at Beijing’s Public Mourning Over Virus Victims
Chinese police officers wear protective masks as they march in formation away from a national flag at half staff after observing three minutes of silence to mark the country's national day of mourning for COVID-19 at Beijing Railway Station in Beijing on April 4, 2020. (Kevin Frayer/Getty Images)
Frank Fang

Many Chinese netizens were displeased at the central government’s announcement of a nationwide public mourning for people who died in the current pandemic. They criticized authorities for putting on a show while failing to disclose the truth of the outbreak.

Qingming Festival, also known as Tomb-Sweeping Day, is a traditional Chinese holiday when people pay their respects to ancestors. It's celebrated on the 15th day after the spring equinox; this year, it falls on April 4.
China’s State Council issued a statement on April 3 declaring that mourning activities for victims of the CCP virus would be held across the country the following day.

Flags were to be flown at half-mast across the country and at overseas embassies. All leisure activities in the country would also be suspended. Finally, people should mourn for three minutes beginning at 10 a.m. on April 4. Cars, trains, warships, and air defense would also blow their horns.

Some Chinese government websites were converted to black and white on April 4, including the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Finance.

Chinese state-run media Xinhua reported that several of China’s top leaders, including Xi Jinping, Li Keqiang, and Li Zhanshu, with white flowers pinned to their chests, stood in silence for 3 minutes beginning at 10 a.m. on April 4 at Zhongnanhai, the Chinese Communist Party’s (CCP) compound in Beijing.

Beijing’s public display of grief drew outcry from many Chinese netizens, who said these were acts of sheer hypocrisy.

One netizen wrote on Weibo: “You [Chinese authorities] choke on their throats when they're alive, then you mourn for three minutes after they're dead. Aren’t you being a hypocrite? Can you be nice to people when they are still alive?”

Another netizen wrote: “All of these horns and sirens are nothing compared to the sound of whistleblowing.”

They were alluding to authorities’ silencing of eight doctors, among them ophthalmologist Li Wenliang, after they posted on Chinese social media in December about a new form of pneumonia that was spreading in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.

Li was subsequently summoned to a police station where he was reprimanded for “rumor-mongering” and was forced to sign a “confession” statement. Li passed away in early February after contracting the virus from an infected patient.

Chinese netizens expressed frustration after Beijing announced the results of an investigation into Li’s case on March 19, in which officers at the local police station were given administrative punishment. Some netizens said the actions were not enough and failed to apprehend those truly responsible for silencing Li.

Meanwhile, a human rights lawyer in Beijing, who asked to remain anonymous, said he believed that Beijing’s coverup led to the spread of the SARS virus in 2002 t0 2003, and this time, the coverup is even more serious.

The SARS pandemic in 2002 to 2003 infected 2,769 and killed 425 people outside of mainland China, according to data from the World Health Organization. Experts say the numbers inside China are likely much higher than officially reported.

“The Chinese Communist Party’s evil nature determines how it deals with a crisis. Its first priority is not about people’s lives, but the stability of its authoritarian rule,” the lawyer told the Chinese-language Epoch Times in an interview.

He said the public mourning was just a show for public consumption, as Chinese officials have continued to suppress freedom of speech while covering up the true scale of the outbreak.

Chinese Human Rights Defenders, a Washington-based advocacy group, issued a report on April 1, documenting 897 cases involving Chinese internet users being penalized by police for their “online speech or info-sharing about coronavirus” from Jan. 1 to March 26.

“The punishments handed out by police fall largely into several types: administrative detention, criminal detention, enforced disappearance, fines, warnings/interrogations, forced confessions and ‘educational reprimand,’” the report stated.

Mr. Li, a resident of Jian’an district in Wuhan, told the Chinese-language Epoch Times that Chinese leaders were the ones responsible for allowing the virus to spread.

Instead of public mournings, Li said that the real way to offer condolences to the dead would be for the CCP to investigate the initial coverup and the origin of the virus.

“Many victims of the virus are calling on the CCP to apologize and step down [from its rule],” Li said.

Frank Fang is a Taiwan-based journalist. He covers U.S., China, and Taiwan news. He holds a master's degree in materials science from Tsinghua University in Taiwan.