Chinese Regime Puts on Political Show With Xi’s Trip to Coronavirus Epicenter Wuhan

March 10, 2020 Updated: March 11, 2020
FONT BFONT SText size

Chinese leader Xi Jinping visited Wuhan, the epicenter of the novel coronavirus outbreak, on March 10, in an apparent attempt to convince citizens that the disease is under control.

This is Xi’s first trip to Wuhan since the outbreak began in December 2019. During the visit, Xi made sure to avoid physical contact, wearing a protective mask, keeping a distance from other officials, and talking to locals via video conference calls.

He then visited a residential compound, heavily guarded by snipers and hundreds of police, according to social media posts from the residents.

Xi previously called the outbreak the most “difficult to control” public health emergency since the Chinese Communist Party took power. In the past month, Chinese state media began pushing propaganda that Xi’s leadership allowed authorities to contain the virus’s spread.

Wuhan Trip

Analysts said Xi’s trip helped him score political points.

“Xi used this Wuhan trip as a political declaration to tell people that he is the real boss who led the Chinese in fighting this coronavirus outbreak,” said U.S.-based China affairs commentator Tang Jingyuan in an interview.

Xi was accompanied by Wang Huning, the regime’s propaganda boss; Ding Xuexiang, director of the Party’s General Office, which handles administrative affairs; and Zhang Youxia, vice chairman of the Central Military Commission, the Party’s top agency in charge of the military.

Noticeably missing was Chinese premier Li Keqiang, who was appointed leader of a new task force in the central government to deal with the epidemic on Jan. 25.

“Xi didn’t arrange for Li Keqiang to accompany him to Wuhan because he has his agenda,” Tang analyzed. “If Li was with Xi, then the achievement belongs to Li’s leadership. Xi didn’t take Li with him—to tell people that all the good results came from Xi’s leadership.”

According to Chinese state-run media Xinhua, Xi first went to the Huoshenshan Hospital, an emergency specialty field hospital built in response to the coronavirus outbreak. The report said he visited medical staff and patients.

Huoshenshan hospital is operated by the military and only treats patients in critical condition.

From the photo Xinhua posted, Xi did not enter the premises of Huoshenshan hospital. He and his team went to the conference room of the nearby Wuhan Staff Sanatorium and spoke to people from the hospital via a big screen.

Then, Xi visited the Xincheng residential compound, located in the Donghu area. Netizens shared videos shot from inside nearby buildings. From their vantage point, they saw dozens of people in Xi’s entourage.

Along the road where Xi’s team passed, locals also saw snipers guarding the top of buildings.

The Wuhan public security bureau also sent two police officers to each household inside the compound, presumably to stand guard and ensure they do not shout protests from their apartment windows.

Days ago, when Vice Premier Sun Chunlan visited a residential compound in Qingshan district (also in Wuhan), residents heckled her, complaining that everything was staged in advance of her visit.

Residents inside Xincheng posted online that local authorities sent food packages to them in advance of Xi’s visit. Online photos showed a bag of rice, a bottle of cooking oil, a bag of dried Chinese dates, and about three pounds of pork.

At a nearby residential compound, people quickly organized a rally and chanted: “we need meat!” after they found out that Xi was visiting nearby.

Since Wuhan was placed on lockdown on Jan. 23, locals have been restricted from going outdoors. Many have complained online that they are unable to buy fresh vegetables and meat.

Success?

Xinhua published a commentary on March 10, proclaiming that China has achieved “partial  critical results” in containing the epidemic. “It is moving toward a good direction,” it stated.

To display such results, Wuhan authorities on March 10 shut down all 14 makeshift hospitals that it previously set up inside the city’s stadiums, school gyms, and exhibition centers to treat those with mild or moderate symptoms of the virus. State-run media reported that there were now fewer patients in Wuhan; thus, these hospitals were no longer needed.

A newspaper run by the Hubei provincial government, Yangtze Daily, reported that all medical teams dispatched from other parts of China to work at such facilities would need to stay at their hotels in Wuhan for a period of time.

The report did not explain why the medical staff could not go back home, nor what the medical teams would do next.

But the report mentioned that patients from the makeshift hospitals would need to stay at quarantine centers for 14 days for medical observation, before they can go back home. Some patients in severe condition were transferred to hospitals designated for treating COVID-19, the disease caused by the new virus.

However, a Wuhan doctor’s spouse told Epoch Times sister media NTD that some patients who were released from local hospitals did not actually recover, and later transmitted the virus to their neighbors in Hanyang district.

“There has been another large-scale infection in Hanyang since the day before yesterday [March 8],” said the spouse, who wished to remain anonymous. “State-run media and government-released data didn’t report this, but we have friends who have checked the infected area by themselves and confirmed the new outbreak.”

China’s National Health Commission reported that there were only 36 newly diagnosed infections in Wuhan on March 8—a figure that the doctor’s spouse did not trust.

“The government keeps changing the data. They only have one purpose, which is hiding the truth,” she said.