Coronavirus: Hubei sacks two senior health officials in province

Medical workers in protective suits move a patient at an isolated ward of a hospital in Caidian district, Wuhan, Hubei province on Feb 6, 2020. PHOTO: REUTERS

SHANGHAI/BEIJING • China's Hubei province has dismissed the provincial health commission's Communist Party boss and a director amid widespread public criticism of the authorities' handling of the coronavirus epidemic.

The country's anti-corruption body said the Hubei Health Commission's Communist Party boss Zhang Jin and director Liu Yingzi had been sacked for unspecified reasons, and their roles would be filled by Mr Wang Hesheng, a member of the provincial committee of the Communist Party.

The central government in Beijing also urged members of the public to report any examples of dereliction of duty among local governments, and officials have been threatened with dismissal if they are found to have shirked their responsibilities.

Dozens of low-level health officials across the country have also lost their jobs for failing to contain the spread of the epidemic, which emerged from an illegal wildlife market in Hubei's capital city of Wuhan late last year and has claimed more than 1,000 lives.

The authorities in Wuhan and Hubei province have taken much of the blame on social media for failing to contain the initial outbreak in December or to report it to higher levels of government.

Hubei Governor Wang Xiaodong and Wuhan Mayor Zhou Xianwang have come under heavy criticism. The city government has also been under fire for its heavy-handed treatment of eight medical personnel accused of "spreading rumours" about the new flu-like virus at the end of last year, including Dr Li Wenliang, who died from the disease last Friday.

China's corruption watchdog sent a team to Wuhan to investigate "issues raised by the public in connection with Dr Li Wenliang".

Speaking on BBC television on Sunday, China's Ambassador to Britain Liu Xiaoming put the blame for Dr Li's treatment by police squarely on the regional government.

"It was not the Chinese authorities - it was local," he said.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 12, 2020, with the headline Coronavirus: Hubei sacks two senior health officials in province. Subscribe