(TibetanReview.net, Mar11’20) – A ‘gratitude education campaign’ launched in Wuhan, capital of Hubei Province, teaching residents to be grateful to President Xi Jinping and the party over the handling of the Covid-19 outbreak has backfired, prompting senior provincial officials to change the tenor of the campaign. The officials have now, instead, taken to praise the people of Wuhan as heroes in an apparent attempt to contain a public backlash sparked by the original move, reported the scmp.com Mar 10.
The Covid-19 epidemic broke out in Wuhan in Dec 2019. The Chinese leadership prevented information about the new deadly virus being made public in the initial stage, censoring the media and punishing medical personnel who tried to get the word out to their fellow-professionals, thereby facilitating its rapid national and global spread.
“Wuhan is a city of heroes, and the Wuhan people are heroes,” Hubei party chief Ying Yong, who was appointed to his post last month, was quoted as saying Mar 8 in a change of his tune. “[Wuhan’s people] … have shown resilience and strong will … I hereby express my sincere gratitude to the people of Wuhan and Hubei.”
The report said that two days earlier, the city’s party chief Wang Zhonglin had triggered an angry backlash online after proposing an “extensive gratitude education campaign”.
The report cited Changjiang River Daily, a newspaper affiliated with the municipal party committee, as saying that Wang had made the suggestion during a Mar 6 meeting to discuss the outbreak.
“[We must] be grateful for the general secretary [Xi] and the Communist Party,” he was quoted as having said. “[We must] listen to the party, follow the party.”
The report noted that Chinese internet users were furious that Wang expected the people to be grateful as they had paid a heavy price for the complete lockdown of the city.
Wuhan has remained in complete lockdown since Jan 23, with most the city’s residents still banned from leaving their homes.
“The government should put an end to its arrogance and humbly express gratitude to its master – millions of people in Wuhan,” Fang Fang, a Wuhan-based writer, was quoted as having written in a widely circulated article first published on WeChat.
The report noted that in the face of mounting public anger, Chinese news outlets deleted most of the coverage of Wang’s remarks, which could still be viewed on cached web pages.
Changjiang River Daily, which first reported the suggestion, was stated to have now removed its online version of the report.
The report noted that during an inspection tour in Beijing last month, Xi had called on officials to strengthen “guidance of public opinion” and to focus on the Communist Party’s care for Wuhan and Hubei province.
The report said practices from Beijing’s old propaganda playbook had triggered a rare public backlash in the past two months, forcing publicity campaigns to put a positive spin on the party’s efforts to be aborted.