Wuhan mayor sloppy and irresponsible according to Chinese netizens

In the face of the Wuhan virus, Hubei officials are being called out for their poor handling of the situation. The latest press conference did not put Wuhan mayor Zhou Xianwang and Hubei governor Wang Xiaodong in a good light. Instead, it sparked off even greater internet wrath over the officials’ ineptitude. Zaobao correspondent Yang Danxu examines the reasons for public anger.
At a press conference on Sunday, Hubei officials were criticised for giving wrong information and misuse of surgical masks. (CNS)
At a press conference on Sunday, Hubei officials were criticised for giving wrong information and misuse of surgical masks. (CNS)

Wuhan mayor Zhou Xianwang, who on Sunday came under fire from the internet community for wearing a mask the wrong way round, yesterday sparked more discussion and speculation when he boldly declared that he was prepared to step down to appease the public.

Zhou yesterday entered the CCTV studio donning a surgical mask, to explain the city’s decision to close off Wuhan due to the rapidly spreading mystery coronavirus.. He described closing off a city of over 10 million people as an unprecedented move in the history of human urban development, adding that while it might cut off the virus, it would leave a stain on history.

... “willing to step down to appease the public” - Zhou Xianwang

The 58-year-old said as long as it would help control the virus and maintain the safety of human lives, he and Wuhan Communist Party Secretary Ma Guoqiang were prepared to “shoulder any responsibility”, and that if people had anything to say about the lockdown on Wuhan and wanted someone to be accountable, they were “willing to step down to appease the public”.

As for the most widely criticised allegation of hiding information on the virus, Zhou responded for the first time that information on the virus had to be disclosed according to law, and as the local government, he could only reveal the information after being authorised.

zhou xianwang
Wuhan mayor Zhou Xianwang has come under fire for his handling of the Wuhan coronavirus situation. (Internet)

Following the outbreak of the Wuhan coronavirus, one key reason for the rapid spread of the virus has been local officials’ insufficient revealing of information about the situation and lack of ability to deal with the virus, with Zhou — as the head of the Wuhan local government — being pushed to the forefront.

Public anger against Zhou and other local officials nearly boiled over on Sunday evening. Even before Zhou stated his willingness to step down, China’s internet community had already “sacked” him and other Hubei officials countless times.

... the three main speakers did not coordinate whether to wear masks. Wang did not wear one, Zhou wore one but the wrong way round... while moderator Bie wore a mask with both nostrils showing...

On Sunday evening, Zhou and Hubei governor Wang Xiaodong and Hubei provincial government secretary general Bie Bixiong held a press conference to give an update on the coronavirus, but the live-streamed session was described by the internet community as “disastrous”.

First of all, the three main speakers did not coordinate whether to wear masks. Wang did not wear one, Zhou wore one but the wrong way round — possibly due to haste — while moderator Bie wore a mask with both nostrils showing, which gave no protection at all.

In light of the government’s ongoing efforts to promote a culture of wearing masks, it was ironic that the Hubei officials in the crisis zone themselves gave a tragicomic negative demonstration.

More dramatically, Wang misspoke several times. Initially, he said Xiantao city in Hubei produced 10.8 billion masks a year. Later, a staffer passed him a note and he corrected the figure to 1.8 billion. He put down the note and continued reading from his script. But someone gave him another note and he corrected the figure again to 1.08 million — not billion, but million. With the official in charge making so many factual errors, no wonder the internet community criticised him for being sloppy and irresponsible.

med supplies
Are medical suits and masks in adequate supply in Wuhan, or not? (Xinhua)

At the same press conference, the statements by the governor and mayor were uncoordinated. Wang said protective gear such as medical suits and masks were in extremely short supply, while Zhou said Wuhan’s short supply has been eased, which is confusing. Are these two people fighting on the same battlefield?

Even more shocking, the three speakers on stage gave themselves a round of applause at the end of the press conference. Some netizens said sarcastically that as the virus rages, the Hubei officials have live-streamed their ineptitude to the entire country. Whether or not they will really step down, in the eyes of the people, they have definitely failed in their crisis management skills.

Related reading: Wuhan coronavirus: Lack of urgency and transparency to blame? | China’s mystery pneumonia