Coronavirus: China charges man who pushed for banquet despite gathering ban

People buying Chinese New Year decorations on Dec 24, 2019, at a market in Chongqing, China, where the authorities have banned large gatherings as they try to rein in the virus epidemic.
People buying Chinese New Year decorations on Dec 24, 2019, at a market in Chongqing, China, where the authorities have banned large gatherings as they try to rein in the virus epidemic.PHOTO: AFP

BEIJING (REUTERS) - Prosecutors in China have brought criminal charges against a 59-year-old man who strapped on firecrackers and doused himself with petrol to defy a ban on public gatherings during a coronavirus epidemic, the Xinhua news agency said.

The resident of the south-western city of Chongqing had planned a birthday banquet of more than 10 tables of guests on Jan 28, the state-run agency said on Wednesday (Feb 12), but local officials battling the outbreak asked him to cancel it.

On Jan 26, after the man failed to convince them to let the party go ahead, he wrapped firecrackers round his waist, poured petrol on his chest and held up a lighter, trying to threaten them into agreeing.

"The actions prevented town and village cadres from carrying out epidemic prevention and control work," Xinhua said, adding that 10 patients visiting a clinic on a lower level of the same building were also affected.

It was not immediately clear what kind of penalties the man would face if convicted.

The authorities have banned large gatherings, such as banquets and parties, as they try to rein in the virus epidemic, which has killed more than 1,100 and infected over 44,000 in China.