A senior Chinese official was heckled while visiting Wuhan, showing how much the coronavirus has weakened the Communist Party's grip on power

A senior Chinese official was heckled while visiting Wuhan, showing how much the coronavirus has weakened the Communist Party's grip on power
wuhan sun chunlan

Xinhua/Chen Yehua via Getty Images


Chinese Vice Premier Sun Chunlan inspecting Huoshenshan Hospital in Wuhan on February 2, 2020. Not the trip where she was heckled by residents.

  • One of China's most powerful officials was heckled in Wuhan, showing how the coronavirus is testing state control.
  • "Fake, fake, everything is fake," residents chanted at Vice Premier Sun Chunlan as she walked through Qingshan district on Thursday, as seen in a video circulated in Chinese media.
  • Wuhan, where the virus broke out, has been under lockdown since January 23. Quarantined residents said authorities were only pretending to deliver food to them.
  • The coronavirus has spurred many Chinese citizens, many of whom previously kept their criticism to themselves, to call for democracy and freedom of speech online.
  • Meanwhile China has censored coronavirus content online and introduced a new law criminalizing posts critical of the government.
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A top-ranking Chinese official was heckled during a visit to Wuhan, showing that the coronavirus is testing the Communist Party's grip on power.

"Fake, fake, everything is fake," went the chant from residents directed at Vice Premier Sun Chunlan as she led a government team through Qingshan district on Thursday.

Residents in Wuhan claimed that that authorities are only pretending to deliver fresh vegetables and meat to those under lockdown. Sun called for an investigation to address the issue, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.


Xinhua said Sun responded to "difficulties and problems raised by the residents on the spot," but did not mention the heckling.

A video of the moment was posted on TikTok by a user in Wuhan, which was then carried by some Chinese media outlets, including the state-run tabloid Global Times.

Others in the video can be heard chanting "We protest," The Guardian reported.

It is unusual to see anti-government protests being widely covered in Chinese social media, let alone state-run news outlets. But The Guardian said this could be the government's attempts to control the narrative of the protests and show that it is responding to the public's concerns.

Sun is in charge of the central government's epidemic-control work in the city of Wuhan, where the epidemic broke out.


She is one of China's four vice premiers, all of whom report directly to Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, who is tasked with leading the national fight against the virus.

Sun ChunlanCCTV

Sun on February 14.

Wuhan has been under strict quarantine since January 23, with locals forced to stay inside their homes.

Many Chinese citizens have been unhappy with the response to the coronavirus outbreak, and furious that information about the virus has been censored online.


China's government and tech companies have long been known to distort data and enforce strict censorship on what its citizens can see.

Wuhan coronavirus food

Photo by TPG/Getty Images

Volunteers and community staff preparing fresh vegetables for quarantined Wuhan citizens on February 25, 2020.

The practice has been especially fervent in relation to content about the COVID-19 outbreak.

A recent report from Citizen Lab found that Chinese social media sites YY and WeChat first started censoring information about the outbreak as early as December 31, the same day China first disclosed the outbreak to the World Health Organization.


And on Sunday, a new law which criminalized the posting of content critical of the government online came into effect.

The censorship has not gone unnoticed.

Li Wenliang

AP Photo

Li Wenliang, the doctor who who got in trouble with authorities in the communist country for sounding an early warning about the coronavirus outbreak. He died of the illness on February 7, 2020.

In December, China censored ophthalmologist Li Wenliang for warning his peers about the coronavirus on December 30, shortly before the government formally acknowledged the outbreak.


Police in Wuhan, where he lived, forced him to sign a letter admitting to "making false comments."

Li died of the coronavirus in February, and his death prompted calls for an end to censorship, with messages like: "The Wuhan government owes Li Wenliang an apology," "I want freedom of speech," and "We want freedom of speech" used by millions, before they too were censored.

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