Chinese get a rare window to censure local officials on Coronavirus crisis
China’s microblogging site Weibo has exploded over the novel Coronavirus outbreak.
Hundreds of millions of posts have flooded the social media site; the number of discussion threads is almost impossible calculate.
No one topic has triggered so much discussion among China’s netizens as this outbreak has in recent years, and the intensity of discussion is unlikely to subside any time soon.
A lot of it has been critical of the government, especially of the Wuhan authorities.
China’s social media platforms are very much behind the so-called great firewall of China’s multi-layered censorship.
But this time around, both Weibo and WeChat, China’s wildly popular mobile phone app, have become channels for criticism, and questioning the authorities on the handling of the rapidly spreading crisis.
Users have openly asked about the resignation of the Wuhan mayor for what neitizens thought was a slow response to the epidemic, which initially started in a trickle before changing into a deluge of cases for which Wuhan was clearly not prepared.
Every move and announcement of the government – especially China’s local and national health commissions – was scrutinsed and dissected.
The governor of Hubei came in for some sharp criticism earlier this week after he held a press conference.
“The yearly output of face masks is 10.8 billion,” Wang Xiaodong said at the briefing Sunday, only having to correct himself after he was handed a piece of paper. “It’s actually 1.8 billion,” he said.
Minutes later, Wang admitted it was 1.8 million masks.
“If he can mess up the data multiple times, no wonder the disease has spread so severely,” one Weibo user said.
Besides Weibo, WeChat’s ‘moments’ section is another channel where netizens are reposting stories from WeChat official accounts about frontline medical workers and patients suffering during the outbreak – and adding critical comments.
“Where is our national system!!” a Wuhan native surnamed Chen wrote in her WeChat Moments when reposting a story about how patients in her hometown could not get proper treatment, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported.
Of course, there were a substantial number of posts urging the country and its citizens to fight the crisis together.
For sure, the window to be critical about local governments and officials is an open one only temporarily – possibly a deliberate decision taken by the ruling Communist Party of China to allow the citizens to vent.