East Asia Watch: China's Potemkin culture laid bare

Wuhan residents' outburst during an official inspection tour of a quarantined estate offers a glimpse into China's long struggle with cover-ups

BEIJING • It seemed all too good to be true. Just ahead of Chinese Vice-Premier Sun Chunlan's visit to a housing complex in Wuhan earlier this month, the estate's management suddenly came alive, with the premises spruced up and doused with disinfectant. On March 5, the day of her inspection tour, "care packages" of meat and vegetables were delivered to the doorsteps of the households under the coronavirus lockdown. It all looked so picture-perfect, until everything went off script.

As Madam Sun and her entourage made their way through the estate, shouts rang out from the windows and balconies of the apartment blocks. "Fake, fake. It's all fake!" angry residents shouted, mocking the supposed tip-top service from local officials.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 17, 2020, with the headline 'China's Potemkin culture laid bare'. Print Edition | Subscribe