As a team of experts led by the World Health Organization is now conducting field work in Wuhan for clues to the origins of the COVID-19 pandemic, Zhang Hai, the son of a victim stands out and wants to tell them a story went unheard.
In a video interview, Zhang told Stand News that he suspected the Wuhan government covered up facts about the pandemic. He has been trying to reach the WHO experts to tell them what he knows, as he didn' t see a way to justice in the country' s judicial system.
Zhang said that the government has been trying to shut him up in the past year, banning his social media accounts and telling him not to talk to foreign media. He hoped that the WHO experts could really act independently, meet families of the deceased to learn about what really happened to them, rather than just paying visits pre-arranged by the government.
He criticized that the authority' s lack of apology and its unwillingness to recognize cover-up were an insult to the deceased.
A father, a COVID-19 victim
Both Zhang and his father are from Wuhan, and Zhang has been working in Shenzhen. On 17 January last year, Zhang brought his father back to Wuhan from Shenzhen for a surgery at the General Hospital of Central Theater Command of PLA. Zhang recalled that everything in Wuhan looked as usual at that time. No one wore mask and the government did not alert the citizens to the emerging coronavirus disease.
Zhang' s father had fever after the surgery. On 30 January, he was diagnosed with COVID-19 and transferred to an isolation ward. It was not until then that Zhang learned that the hospital admitted COVID-19 patients. His father lapsed into a coma that night and passed away on 1 February.
Three lawsuits against the government
From his research into the COVID-19 outbreak, Zhang thought the local government has covered up the facts, and the pandemic was the result of“deliberate cover-up of the two levels of governments.”Getting through the death of his father and the lockdown of the city, he began to condemn the government on Weibo and link up over a hundred of families of other deceased.
Zhang sued thrice against the Wuhan Government, Hubei Provincial Government and the General Hospital of Central Theater Command of PLA in the past year, firstly at the Intermediate People' s Court of Hubei Province in June and secondly at the Higher People' s Court of Hubei Province in August. In November, he brought the case to the Supreme People' s Court.
At his attempts at the Hubei Courts, Zhang was verbally informed by court officers that he “failed to meet the criteria for filing a case”. The Supreme People' s Court simply did not respond.
Zhang wrote an open letter to the CPC Central Committee on 16 November and before long he was summoned by the Shenzhen Public Security Bureau. The officers said that he needed to“follow the procedures”for writing a letter to the CPC Central Committee.
Families summoned, online accounts terminated
Zhang said most of the families he contacted were pressured by the authorities afterwards. Some families, after being interviewed by local media, were summoned by the district authorities along with information provided by the city' s public security bureau. They were told not to talk to foreign reporters as foreign media were supported by“anti-China forces”. Meanwhile, some families were informed by the officers that their cases would not be filed in Wuhan or even Hubei Courts, and no lawyers would take such cases.
Zhang said himself was put under surveillance as well. For once, security officers were at his doorstep right after he arrived in Wuhan. The chat group among Zhang and other families were banned, while Zhang has six Weibo accounts terminated, so was his other online platforms. He was even questioned about his conversations with other families with the chat history printed out at an interview in Shenzhen.
“Do not talk to foreign media. We are all Chinese,”Zhang recalled how an officer in Wuhan had warned him.
Request to meet WHO experts, “homicide cover-up”
Zhang lambasted the Wuhan government of covering up the pandemic, disregarding lives. “It' s a typical homicide and I' m furious. As an ordinary citizen, I think it' s the government' s responsibility to forewarn the people [about the outbreak]. However, they turned a blind eye to the people losing lives. I want to stand out for justice.”
“Up to now, the government does not bother make an apology to the deceased’s families, even a hypocritical one. It' s disrespectful to the deceased. It' s also an insult to them as the government shrugged off its responsibilities.”
Knowing that the WHO experts getting to Wuhan, Zhang looked into what the organization do. Zhang doubted the independency of WHO, but he still hoped that its experts would do their job independently without hinderance, as their investigation will be seen as a page in history.
Therefore, Zhang insisted to meet the WHO experts.“Do they dare to hear what the families say? If the answer is‘no’, they come to Wuhan just to make a show and fool around,”he said.“If they come here just to read the materials provided by the Wuhan government only, they will be misled about origin of the coronavirus and how it spread around the city.”
WHO said the visit to China was meant to be a scientific investigation, conducting“in-depth interviews and assessment”to investigate the origin of the coronavirus and studying the early cases, rather than holding someone liable.