The performance of Wuhan Mayor Zhou Xianwang during the 2020 Wuhan coronavirus epidemic is controversial. Some online reports claim that he is on the way out because of mismanagement of the early stages of the epidemic.
Hypothesis: Willing Perpetrator or Scapegoat Needed. Did Mayor Zhou Go Back on the Deal?
All this politics swirling around is more than a bit confusing. One reasonable hypothesis is that since this crisis has seriously embarrassed the Chinese Communist Party, the responsibles need to be removed smoothly to minimize the harm done to the Party. Effective scapegoating need a confession from the people involved. Here however Mayor Zhou is saying that I did nothing wrong, but I am willing to assume full responsibility, standing despised before all of history! What I care about most of all is the well-being of Chinese citizens threatened by the epidemic and all of humanity as well. P.S. Those officials in Beijing are responsible for concealing the seriousness of the epidemic early on!
Shifting responsibility is one of the highest forms of political art, seen of course in other countries as well. “I assume full responsibility ….. but I am not to blame!”
Mayor Zhou says that he was not able to release information about the epidemic to the public any earlier because of the provisions of the Law of the People’s Republic of China on the Prevention and Treatment of Infectious Diseases.
Having compared the Chinese and machine-translated text, I’d say that Google Translate does a fairly good job on this law. Not to legal standards certainly but enough to give a good idea what is and isn’t in the law and to muse on Mayor Zhou’s “the devil made me do it!” excuse. Here is Google Translate version of this PRC law.
More on this in a separate posting. The length got out of control! Here it is: The Law and Wuhan Mayor Zhou’s Excuse: I Followed the Rules, Blame Higher-Ups, Not me — the Law the PRC on the Prevention and Control of Infectious Diseases
Michael Anti, a Beijing-based Chinese commentator, made this comment about the broadcast interview with Chinese Central Television (CCTV) below.
Wuhan’s Mayor Zhou is very sly: he essentially is claiming that he concealed information about the epidemic because Chinese law requires authorization from higher authority before local government can release this information. Without permission, this information cannot be released. Zhou added that he made the decision to close Wuhan. Thus the correct decision was his; the error is because he was constrained by his superiors. Sly devil on live TV. This interview should go down in history.
[Transcript] CCTV Dong Qian interviews Wuhan Mayor Zhou Xianwang
January 27, 2020 15:31 Source: CCTV News
[Transcript] Chinese Central Television (CCTV) Dong Qian interviews Wuhan Mayor Zhou Xianwang.
This afternoon, Wuhan Mayor Zhou Xianwang walked into the front-line studio of Hubei Television for an interview with CCTV reporters! What arrangements have been made for hospital treatment in Wuhan? What is the procedure and what arrangements have been made for hospital admission of fever patients? Do you have enough physicians assigned to the hospitals? Can they meet present clinical needs? Please watch this live broadcast!
The following is the actual transcript:
Wuhan Mayor Zhou Xianwang walked into the front-line studio of Hubei Television for an exclusive interview with CCTV reporter Dong Qian. (14:51)
Host: First of all, I want to explain something as I broadcast live from this Hubei studio. You may ask, “Why aren’t you wearing a face mask since you are on the front-line in an epidemic area?” First of all, our studio at the Hubei TV station is strictly disinfected. In addition, I also consulted experts and said that in such a strictly disinfected space, and I confirm that these colleagues around me have not been to a hospital or if they have been in some hazardous places they have always worn a mask. Therefore, I am not wearing a mask during this live broadcast. However, as you can see, Mayor Zhou sitting next to me is wearing a mask. (15:10)
Zhou Xianwang: This is because the pneumonia caused by the new coronavirus has been confirmed to have spread from person to person. As the mayor, I must do a good job of prevention and control. I must take the lead in carrying out the necessary prevention and control according to the recommendations of experts. This include good personal hygiene habits including wearing masks when going out into public places. This is became a basic requirement once our prevention and control work got started. (15:13)
Host: Several days have passed since the roads out of Wuhan have been closed. What has been the effect? (15:16)
Zhou Xianwang: Now that the epidemic area of viral pneumonia of Wuhan is well controlled, we will be able to stop its continued transmission. The first priority in infectious diseases control is to control is to control the source of infection, and now fewer people are leaving Wuhan. This is currently our contribution to the country and to humanity. Therefore, we decided to close the roads out of Wuhan in accordance with the established procedures. Now that Wuhan citizens understand, it has had a good effect. The number of people leaving Wuhan has gone down significantly. There is no road out. The road closure was mandatory. That has been very effective in blocking the source of the infection. (15:18)
Host: The reason I ask this question is because when we look at the numbers, the number of confirmed cases from Wuhan and Hubei Province. The number of suspected cases now under medical observation is also increasing. What should we make of that? (15:29)
Zhou Xianwang: What is the relationship between the growth you just mention and our closing of the road out of Wuhan? I have no better idea than you do. We closed the roads out of Wuhan in order to reduce the possibility that infected people in Wuhan would could carry the infection with them out of Wuhan and infect other people outside. However, as for people who have already been infected in this area and have become ill, that number will not be affected by the closure of the roads out of Wuhan. Judging from the epidemiological pattern, we found the first case on December 27th. Tracking that case back to the beginning, we find that the first patient was hospitalized on December 12th. According to that cycle, we are now in a high incidence period, so the number of patients have increased accordingly at this time. That is in line with this pattern. (15:31)
Host: Mayor Zhou, when I was interviewing some medical staff yesterday, it became clear that the motor vehicle restriction are a real problem for the medical staff. When they commute to work, some medical staff may have to walk one or two hours or even longer between their homes and their hospital. Have you considered the practical problem that they are facing? How can these problem be solved and what pledges can you make to them? (15:32)
Zhou Xianwang: The purpose of motor vehicle restrictions is to block infectious diseases and reduce people’s mobility. Because we require home observation, those who do not have special circumstances should not go out, and those who do not have special circumstances cannot leave Wuhan, and people from other places should not come to Wuhan without special circumstances. Everyone should just be under observation at home. Infectious disease scientists long ago discovered that quarantine is the best policy. We limit the number of motor vehicles so that people will not go out. (15:34)
Zhou Xianwang: We have shuttle vehicles. After we stopped bus service, we divided up 310 large buses and assigned them to various street committees for them to manage. They can be used as transport vehicles vehicles. In addition, we have also assigned three to five taxis to each community. Their most important task is to serve the medical staff in their community. (15:35)
Host: They have priority. (15:47)
Zhou Xianwang: They have top priority. The next priority is to send free food, meals, and medical treatment to those who are inconvenienced by the necessity of observation at at home. Of course we are still working out the details and getting experience so this service is not yet ideal. (15:47)
Host: What kind of problems? (15:48)
Zhou Xianwang: For example, I allocated three to five cars to each community. Some drivers think that they can help you deliver food and meals, but can’t transport patients with fever. Some drivers believe that because they lack health expertise and so don’t want to take physicians back and forth. They respect them but they fear them. So they refuse to do it. This causes inconvenience to our medical staff. We are requisitioning some hotels near our hospital so that these medical staff will not get exhausted from commuting. (15:49)
Host: Is this best from the perspective of safety? (15:49)
Zhou Xianwang: It should be safe to do this. (15:49)
Host: That is, not allowing medical personnel to go between home and the hospital every day but to give them another place to live. Is that a safer arrangement? (15:49)
Zhou Xianwang: That should be true. (15:50)
Zhou Xianwang: These problems are gradually cropping up. New problems keep coming up but solutions come more slowly slowly so it is really not easy for our medical staff during this time. (15:51)
Host: This is about medical personnel. Looking at it from the perspective of the general public, the prevention and control of the spread of the epidemic is of paramount importance. However, some residents also have urgent need for normal medical treatment. How can you assure them that they will get it? (15:51)
Zhou Xianwang: Considering travel restrictions, we must try to meet normal medical needs as much as possible within the community. (15:51)
Host: Restrict the movement of people as much as possible. (15:51)
Mr. Zhou Xianwang: Yes, Prime Minister Keqiang also emphasized this point with us just now and the importance of observation at home. The necessary daily necessities can be satisfied, otherwise people will not be able to live at home, and if they cannot live there, the will go out, and so they will either infect other people or become infected themselves. (15:52)
Host: You are talking about fever. If someone has a fever but has not reached the fever criterion for treatment, they should do home observation first. (15:52)
Zhou Xianwang: It works like this. During this period the person’s status is not yet completely clear. Someone has a fever at home. After examination at the fever clinic, it turns out to be just a general headache and fever, and a common cold. Just observe it at home. If your illness does not develop further and the conventional cold therapy works, then you do not need to go to the hospital, just observe at home. The other case is if someone is not sick at all, but there is a danger of disease transmission all about. If they stay at home and rest. If they go out, they may get infected. Therefore, the ban on motor vehicles plays its role in this way. (15:52)
Host: If a woman is having a baby or an elderly person has a heart attack, how can we take care of their normal medical needs? (15:52)
Zhou Xianwang: Vehicles assigned to the community are used to solve these problems. In addition, we are still recruiting volunteers. Some communities with private cars have volunteers to organize a team to solve these unexpected problems. In addition, we have the 1-2-0 emergency [ambulance] response number vehicles as well but demand for them is very high right now. (15:54)
Host: For people on the outside, the events since January 23 up to the decision to close the road from Wuhan have all come very suddenly. Was it a very sudden decision? (15:55)
Zhou Xianwang: It was a very difficult decision to make. It came all of a sudden because the epidemic erupted suddenly. (15:55)
Zhou Xianwang: The epidemic came suddenly. For floods we get some warning from weather forecasts. Fires also erupt suddenly. As you are aware, we don’t have ready-made standards for these decisions. We didn’t have any remedial actions prepared. It came without warning. If we hadn’t take that drastic step, who knows what might have happened. Just think of what the great epidemics of history – the Black Death, Bubonic plague, and smallpox – have done to humanity. Deaths on an unimaginable scale. Will the pneumonia caused by this new coronavirus be like this? No one can say for certain. For now, the only thing for us to do is decisively closing of the doors and the gates of the city so that these people who may be infected will be kept enclosed within this circle so that they don’t go out to infect others. Each of us lives in our own homes within this circle. We don’t go out to infect others in this city. That is the reason for sealing off the city. (15:55)
Host: Certainly this is the best way to stop this disease from being transmitted, but Wuhan is a very large city with links to nine provinces. Especially with it coming at Spring Festival time, this must have given you a lot of pressure. (15:56)
Zhou Xianwang: Our Wuhan Communist Party Committee Secretary, Comrade Ma Guoqiang, is an entrepreneur. He thinks problems through more thoroughly than I do. However, when faced with this kind of problem, it can be said that it is simply matter of right and wrong. A city with a population of more than 10 million people has become a closed city. Some say that this has never happen before in all human history and in all the history of cities. However, in the face of the threat of today ’s epidemic, we have closed this door. We may have blocked the disease. We will become infamous for all time. However, we believe that as long as this serve the purpose of controlling disease, as long as it serves the purpose of protecting human life, Ma Guoqiang said that we will accept all responsibility. Many people in this closed city despise us. We willingly accept dismissal for our mistakes. We are willing to face whatever punishments might come our way as long as what we did served the purpose of controlling the epidemic. (16:14)
Host: What are the difficulties ahead? (16:15)
Zhou Xianwang: We need to get a hold of ourselves. Not everyone understands the threat of epidemic disease or has any idea about the management of contagious diseases, including within the members of our group not everyone understands these things. The Party Secretary and myself the mayor we have a fair idea of these things. In these matters, one is afraid of causing a panic and so things have to make preparations in advance. (16:16)
Host: Has the panic subsided, or is it still more or less still out there, to your understanding? (16:17)
Zhou Xianwang: Now the epidemic has begun, we haven’t seen any change in it, treatment is inconvenient, and getting about is difficult. Panic comes from not knowing, from a kind of invisible pressure. Now however, everybody knows what faces us. We know what infection is, and what kind of external threat infection is. I believe that the problem now is not fear because we know what is out there. If we do not face it effectively, if we don’t cut off the source of the infection, if we don’t cut off the ways it spreads, you will become infected. Now that people understand, the problem is not fear but but handling the pressure and the responsibility to do a job on these tasks. (16:19)
Host: Do you think citizens still feel uncertainty about the future? (16:20)
Zhou Xianwang: Generally speaking, Wuhan citizens are very cooperative. After we close the city, nobody came to us with a petition. No one asked the municipal government or the municipal party committee for an explanation. However, there are still many citizens who are very optimistic. They say in such a big city, what is the chance that I will be infected? So you see a lot of people on the street, there are a lot of activities in the community, there are a lot of people going around without face masks, Now we need to educate our citizens through our propaganda and mobilization. They need to understand measures to prevent and treat pneumonia of this new type of coronavirus infection. Everyone must know these things, everyone must participate and cooperate with one another. That is the way our city closure will be effective. If you close the city but don’t control the infection and it keeps on spreading inside the city, then you will have a big problem. (16:21)
Host: I don’t know if you are aware of this or not. After the epidemic began in Wuhan, including when the roads out of Wuhan were closed, people in other areas were feeling nervous about the presence of people who had left Wuhan or had left Hubei. What do you think about that attitude of nervousness about Wuhan and Hubei people? (16:22)
Zhou Xianwang: This is normal. People worry about their own safety. Once they heard that there is an epidemic in Wuhan, they doesn’t know much the epidemic is and how severe it is. They are not willing to have contact with people from here. This is not just about Wuhan people but also people traveling from Wuhan. They are afraid that you are a carrier of the virus. I think this is normal just like what happened around the country after the SARS epidemic in Beijing and Guangzhou in 2003. (16:23)
Host: What has your work been like lately? (16:24)
Zhou Xianwang: After the epidemic started and developed, we heard at first that the virus was not very dangerous and it wasn’t being communicated very efficiently. In the second phase, it was said that there was limited person-to-person transmission. In the next phase there was rapid person-to-person transmission. Therefore, the epidemic steadily became a higher profile concern. For more than ten days, the work of all or us – our work team, the city party committee, the government including our various component districts an counties – has staffed work on the epidemic around the clock. (16:24)
Host: It should be said that this sudden public health crisis, including the operation of various aspects of governance, is a great test. How are you facing this huge test? (16:25)
Zhou Xianwang: It is a severe test. We have faced and passed many such tests here in Wuhan. For example, the 1954 flood, the 1998 flood, SARS in 2003, and the 2016 flood. In fact, we have the courage to overcome difficulties, but also the Party and government cadres who overcome them. Everyone on the cadre team has to go through a learning process was we confront the difficulties of defeating this virus. The pressure we feel from the threat of this viral pneumonia in Wuhan is very similar to the sum of the pressures felt in Beijing and Guangzhou in 2003. In 2003, the source of the SARS epidemic was in Guangzhou, and the severely affected area was in Beijing. This year, both the source is Wuhan and the most severely affected area is Wuhan. Therefore everyone is under a lot of pressure. As one of Chinese most important medical centers, Wuhan has a wealth of medical resources and so it is better able to confront the epidemic than many other cities. Nonetheless, in the face of the sudden demands coming from such a large infectious, its resources are stretched and it has many problems that are all too evident. The team of the municipal party committee government is undoubtedly under tremendous pressure. So we keep working in shifts around the clock, sometimes we haven’t staffed it well so some problems have arisen. (16:26)
Host: Why did you just say that round-the-clock staffing is not working out well? (16:27)
Zhou Xianwang: I feel that our ability to respond to emergencies and in particular to public health emergencies needs considerable improvement. This is just what Party General Secretary Xi proposed to modernize our governance capacity and governance system. The modernization of governance capacity is an important part of our crisis management. We need to improve our emergency management capacity. (16:27)
Host: Mayor Zhou thank you very much for your frankness. You said just now that even though Wuhan has relatively rich resources compared to other cities, they are still stretched in the face of such a huge crisis. At this time, you feel that the supplies coming in from various quarters are not enough. What do you think is needed? (16:28)
Zhou Xianwang: They are certainly inadequate. If the a city were able to routinely cope with such a large epidemic situation, then the wealth dedicated to that task could not be used to develop the city and improve people’s livelihood. You cannot allocate public resources to prepare for such a large epidemic. That is impossible. I think it would be impossible for any city in any country, including the developed countries. (16:28)
Host：You said that you did not have enough to face it yourself, but now people and materials are coming in from all directions to support you. Thus far have have you gotten enough doctors and nurses and other support? (16:29)
Zhou Xianwang: As a Chinese, I really feel happy as a Chinese citizen under the leadership of the Communist Party of China. As soon as our disaster occurred, the Party Central Committee, the State Council and the Central Military Commission made it a high priority. Resources have come in from all parts of the country to Wuhan, including scarce protective clothing, N95 masks and goggles, and other consumables that were shipped from all over the country. If it were not for these support, many of our patients would not have been treated in time and would not have been treated in the hospital, and might have said goodbye to this world forever. (16:30)
Host: Mayor Zhou, in fact, the people of the entire country hope, as you have just said, that make a good response in terms of governance and continue to improve as lessons are learned. Everyone also expects as well to get timely and accurate information. But everyone expects, how is it that you get get timely and accurate information? Is the information you get sufficient for you to make a correct judgment? (16:31)
Zhou Xianwang: Actually, everyone involved in our epidemic is dissatisfied with the information sharing. We have both information that is not disclosed in a timely manner and also a lot of information that could help us in our work that we do not use effectively. As for the information that we do not disclose in a timely manner, I need to beg everyone’s indulgence on that. This is a matter concerning contagious disease and China has is a law on the prevention of contagious diseases. Information may be disclosed only as permitted according to that law. As a local government, after we got that information, we may disclose that information only after we are given permission to do so. That is something that many people do not understand. Later, especially on January 20th, the State Council called a meeting of the Standing Committee and determined that this disease was a B-type contagious disease and ordered that it be handled as an A-type contagious disease and asked the locality to assume responsibility for handling it. After they made that decision, we could take much more initiative. And in many aspects of some tough measures, we weren’t even a half-beat behind. We took decisive action. For example, we closed the road out of Wuhan, suspended our city’s subways, buses, and ferries including long-distance buses out of Wuhan. (16:32)
Zhou Xianwang: But after taking these measures, the the entire functioning of your city changed. The way people’s people ’s clothing, food, shelter, and services provided all changed, and many of these areas were not able to keep up with the changes. (16:32)
Host: I understand. Thank you very much, Mayor Zhou, because I know that your recent work tempo has been very rapid. Hearing how hoarse you voice is, I hope that you will stay well and be able to continue the fight. We hope that Wuhan will not only support the medical staff in various ways, but also that Wuhan gets moral support from throughout the country. We all need to understand that what we need to do is to stop the virus and not the warm human relationships we enjoy with one another. (16:33)
Moderator: How are the citizens of Wuhan doing? (16:34)
Zhou Xianwang: Wuhan are people are doing great. The people of Wuhan can see the the big picture and understand that the city was closed for the sake of the health and safety of all the people in the country. Wuhan people have that kind of love, that kind of righteousness and that kind of attitude. (16:34)
(Article source: CCTV News)