Prominent commentator calls for transparency amid frustration over China’s ‘zero-Covid’ policy

Updated on Sep 26, 2022 02:48 PM IST

Hu Xijin, former editor of the state-run tabloid Global Times, made the call for more transparency on Covid-19-related research on Twitter-like microblog Weibo

People line up to get a swab at a nucleic acid testing station, set up city-wide to trace possible Covid-19 outbreaks in Beijing, China. (REUTERS)
People line up to get a swab at a nucleic acid testing station, set up city-wide to trace possible Covid-19 outbreaks in Beijing, China. (REUTERS)
BySutirtho Patranobis I Edited by Amit Chanda

BEIJING: A prominent Chinese commentator has said China needs “very rational research” on Covid-19 and studies on the disease should be published and made “transparent” to the public as frustration over Beijing’s “zero-Covid” policy continues to simmer.

Hu Xijin, former editor of the state-run tabloid Global Times, made the call for more transparency on Covid-19-related research on Twitter-like microblog Weibo on Sunday.

“Facing the future, China needs very rational research and calculations,” said Hu, former editor-in-chief of Global Times.

“Experts should stand up and speak, and the state should organise relevant comprehensive studies and make them transparent to the public: What are the advantages and disadvantages for our people to open up or insist on not letting go, and what are the advantages and disadvantages for the country as a whole (for not opening up)?”

Hu added that the “intention of socialist China in making policy decisions must be for the benefit of the people” and while the people must believe in the state, “the state must also believe in the consciousness of the people”.

Published on Sunday, Hu’s post had garnered over 52,000 likes by Monday

“Oppose lying flat (or lifting all restrictions), but also against excessive epidemic prevention,” one Weibo user responded to Hu’s write-up.

“It is not to open up, but to respond more accurately and not to affect the economy too much,” said another user.

While most countries have lifted Covid-19-related restrictions on movement and travel, focusing more vaccinations, Beijing has continued to enforce its zero-Covid policy with snap lockdowns, mass tests, contact tracing and hard quarantine for the infected and their contacts.

Strict containment strategies are implemented to tackle the mostly Omicron-driven outbreaks, which continue to break out across China in small clusters.

Covid-19 infection and death numbers have remained low in China compared to other countries but the policies have severely impacted the economy.

There’s no indication from the government, for example, on when strict border controls will be lifted to normalise international travel.

Unlike in the case of commentator Hu, considered to be closely connected with the government, most write-ups criticising the zero-Covid policy have been swiftly censored.

In late August, China censored the Beijing-based research centre, Anbound Research Centre’s report disagreeing with the government’s zero-Covid strategy after it argued that the virus containment policies are disrupting trade and industry and stalling the Chinese economy.

Meanwhile, the Chinese Centre for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has said that a well-timed second booster dose is necessary for a safe, long-term exit from the pandemic, calling for the last 10 % of China’s population who have yet to be fully vaccinated to take shots as soon as possible.

The article titled “Perspectives: Vaccinate with Confidence and Finish Strong” was recently published by the China CDC Weekly.

“Everyone wants to return to normal life. Vaccination is the key,” experts wrote in the article.

“The last 10 % yet to be fully vaccinated is the most difficult to reach but also a critically important group to protect. It includes many people with comorbidities, many of whom are elderly and will suffer the most from Covid-19 if infected,” the China CDC article said.

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