independent.ie– Families who lost relatives during Wuhan’s initial outbreak of coronavirus are being blocked in their legal efforts to hold the Chinese authorities responsible, one year after lockdowns first started at ground zero of the pandemic.
Five families have accused the municipal and provincial governments of covering up the outbreak, neglecting to notify the public and failing to act swiftly, causing infections to explode.
The Daily Telegraph has spoken to four of the five trying to bring unprecedented lawsuits. Most are seeking 2 million yuan (€250,000) each.
Local courts have rejected all lawsuits they have tried to file, so they are attempting to sue at higher courts, defying government threats that have scared dozens of others into giving up.
Pursuing their cases poses immense risks as they are challenging China’s official narrative, which claims authorities acted swiftly and with transparency to contain Covid-19, glossing over missteps and the silencing of whistle-blowers.
“It’s very clear the authorities concealed the situation at the time and committed a crime that amounts to murder, one that meant my father died,” said Zhang Hai (51), the first in China to try to sue the government last June. “This behaviour should be punished by law.”
However, he added: “They know if I succeed in filing a lawsuit, that means thousands of other families will also sue. Maybe they hope these issues will go away over time.”
Mr Zhang said he never would have checked his father, Zhang Lif (76) into a hospital in Wuhan in mid-January last year if authorities had sounded the alarm over the outbreak. While in hospital for a thigh bone fracture, his father contracted Covid-19 and soon died. At the end of last year, Mr Zhang sent papers to China’s supreme court in Beijing after lower courts in Wuhan city and Hubei province refused to accept his lawsuit, but he has yet to receive an acknowledgement of the documents.
He posted an open letter to Chinese President Xi Jinping, demanding government officials responsible for the cover-up be punished. (© Telegraph Media Group Ltd 2021)