Boy’s death in lockdown raises anger over China’s zero-COVID policy

(CNN) — The death of a 3-year-old boy following an alleged gas leak at a confined residential complex in northwest China has triggered a new wave of outrage over the country’s strict zero-Covid policy.

The boy’s father claimed in a social media post that Covid equipment workers tried to prevent him from leaving his compound in Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu province, to seek treatment for his son, causing a delay that, according to he was fatal.

A social media post by the father on Wednesday about his son’s death was met with a wave of public anger and grief, with several related hashtags amassing hundreds of millions of views over the next day on Weibo, the Twitter-like platform. from China.

“Three years of pandemic was his whole life,” read one of the comments.

It is the latest tragedy to fuel a growing backlash against China’s unrelenting zero-Covid policy, which continues to disrupt daily life with relentless lockdowns, quarantines and large-scale testing mandates, even as the rest of the world leaves behind. the pandemic.

Numerous similar cases have involved people who have died after being denied immediate access to emergency medical care during lockdowns, despite insistence by Chinese officials, including leader Xi Jinping, that the country’s Covid policies “They put people and their lives first.”

People line up for covid tests on July 12, 2022 in Lanzhou, China.

People line up for COVID tests on July 12, 2022 in Lanzhou, China.

a month of confinement

Much of Lanzhou, including the neighborhood where the boy’s family lives, has been in lockdown since early October.

The boy’s father said his wife and son fell ill around noon Tuesday and were showing signs of gas poisoning. The mother’s condition improved after receiving CPR from the father, but the boy fell into a coma, according to the man’s social media post.

The father said he made numerous attempts to call both an ambulance and the police, but was unable to get through. He said he then went to ask for help from the Covid workers who were enforcing the lockdown at his compound, but was turned away and told to seek help from officials in his community or to continue calling a community himself. ambulance.

He said workers asked him to show a negative Covid test result, but he was unable to do so because no tests had been conducted at the complex in the previous 10 days.

She grew desperate and finally took her son outside, where a “kind-hearted” resident called a taxi to take them to the hospital, she wrote.

However, it was too late when they arrived and the doctors were unable to save her son.

“My son could have been saved if he had been taken to the hospital sooner,” she wrote.

According to online maps, the hospital is only 3 kilometers (1.86 miles) from the boy’s home, a 10-minute drive.

The father claimed in his social media post that the police did not show up until after he had taken his son to the hospital. But local police said in a statement late Tuesday that they immediately rushed to the scene after receiving a call for help from the public and helped send two people, including the boy, to hospital 14 minutes later.

The police statement said the boy had died of carbon monoxide poisoning and the mother remained in hospital in stable condition, but did not mention whether lockdown measures had delayed his treatment.

CNN has contacted Lanzhou officials and the boy’s father for comment. The father did not answer.

On Thursday, Lanzhou authorities issued a statement expressing sorrow over the boy’s death and condolences to his family. They promised to “deal seriously” with officials and work units that failed to facilitate a timely rescue for the child.

“We have learned a painful lesson from this incident… and we will put people and their lives first in our work going forward,” the statement said.

Covid-19: Chinese city where iPhones are manufactured closes 0:42

demand answers

The boy’s death also inflamed the anger of local residents. Videos circulating on social media show residents taking to the streets to demand a response from the authorities.

One shows a woman yelling at officers covered from head to toe in hazmat suits. “Ask your leader to come here and tell us what happened today,” she yells. In another, a man sings: “Give me back my freedom!”

Other videos show several buses with SWAT police officers arriving at the scene.

One shows lines of officers in hazmat suits marching down the street; several others show residents in a confrontation with uniformed policemen holding shields and wearing helmets and masks.

CNN cannot independently verify the videos, but a resident who lives nearby confirmed to CNN that he saw the SWAT team enter.

“They yelled ‘one, two, one’ (as they were marching down the street) so loud it could be heard 500 meters away,” the resident said.

He lamented Lanzhou’s “prevention of epidemics and excessive lockdowns” and what he said was increasingly strict censorship.

“Now even knowing the truth has become an extravagant hope,” he said. “Who knows how many similar incidents have occurred across the country?”

In his social media post, the father said he was approached by someone claiming to work for a “civilian organization” and offered 100,000 yuan (about $14,000) on the condition that he sign an agreement committing to Do not hold the authorities accountable.

“I did not sign it. All I want is an explanation (for my son’s death),” she wrote. “I want (them) to tell me directly, why didn’t they let me go at that time?”

The father’s posts on Weibo and Baidu, another online site, recounting the incident disappeared Wednesday night.

CNN’s Mengchen Zhang and Shawn Deng contributed to this report.

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