The death of a 3-year-old boy after a suspected gas leak at a gated residential complex in northwest China has sparked a new wave of outrage over China’s strict zero-Covid policy. country
The boy’s father claimed in a social media post that Covid workers tried to prevent him from leaving his compound in Lanzhou, the capital of Gansu province, to seek treatment for his son, causing a delay he believes which proved fatal.
A social media post by the father on Wednesday about his son’s death was met with public anger and grief, with several related hashtags racking up hundreds of millions of views over the next day on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like platform. .
“Three years of pandemic was his whole life,” read one popular comment.
It’s the latest tragedy to fuel a growing backlash against China’s relentless zero-Covid policy, which continues to disrupt daily life with relentless lockdowns, quarantines and mass testing mandates even as the rest of the world moves from pandemic
Numerous similar cases have involved people dying after being denied prompt access to emergency medical care during lockdowns, despite the insistence of Chinese officials, including leader Xi Jinping, that the country’s Covid policies ” they put people and their lives first.”
Large parts of Lanzhou, including the neighborhood where the boy’s family lives, have been locked down since early October.
The boy’s father said his wife and son fell ill around noon on Tuesday, showing signs of gas poisoning. The mother’s condition improved after receiving CPR from the father, but the child fell into a coma, according to the man’s social media post.
The father said he made numerous attempts to call both an ambulance and the police, but was unsuccessful. He said he then went to seek help from the Covid workers who were enforcing the lockdown in his compound, but was turned away and told to seek help from officials in his community or continue to call for an ambulance.
He said workers asked him to show a negative Covid test result, but he was unable to do so because no tests had been done at the premises for the previous 10 days.
Desperate, she eventually took her son outside, where a “kind-hearted” resident called a taxi to take them to the hospital, she wrote.
However, it was too late when they arrived and the doctors were unable to save their son.
“My son could have been saved if he had been taken to the hospital sooner,” she wrote.
According to online maps, the hospital is only 3 kilometers (1.86 miles) from the boy’s home, a 10-minute drive.
The father claimed in his social media post that the police did not show up until after he had taken his son to the hospital. But local police said in a statement late Tuesday that they rushed to the scene after receiving a call for help from the public and helped send two people, including the boy, to the ‘hospital 14 minutes later.
The police statement said the child had died of carbon monoxide poisoning and the mother remained in hospital in a stable condition, but did not say whether the lockdown measures had delayed her treatment.
CNN reached out to both Lanzhou officials and the boy’s father for comment. The father did not answer.
On Thursday, Lanzhou authorities issued a statement expressing grief over the boy’s death and condolences to his family. They promised to “deal seriously” with officials and work units that had not facilitated a timely rescue of the boy.
“We have learned a painful lesson from this incident … and will put people and their lives first in our work going forward,” the statement said.
The boy’s death also drew the ire of neighbors. Videos Social networks are circulating with residents taking to the streets to demand answers from the authorities.
One shows a woman screaming at officials wrapped head to toe in hazmat suits. “Ask your leader to come here and tell us what happened today,” he shouts. In another, a man sings, “Give me back my freedom!”
Other videos show several buses containing SWAT police officers arriving at the scene.
One shows lines of officers in hazmat suits marching down the street; several others show residents in a confrontation with uniformed police officers wearing shields and wearing helmets and masks.
CNN cannot independently verify the videos, but a resident who lives nearby confirmed to CNN that he saw SWAT team police entering.
“They shouted ‘one, two, one’ (as they marched down the street) so loudly you could hear them from 500 meters away,” the neighbor said.
He lamented Lanzhou’s “excessive epidemic prevention and lockdowns” and what he said was increasingly strict censorship.
“Now, even knowing the truth has become an extravagant hope,” he said. “Who knows how many similar incidents have happened across the country?”
In his social media post, the father said he was approached by someone claiming to work for a “civilian organization” and offered 100,000 yuan (about $14,000) on the condition that he sign an agreement in the which promised not to ask the authorities for responsibility.
“I didn’t sign it. All I want is an explanation (for my son’s death),” he wrote. “I want them to tell me straight up why they didn’t let me go then?”
The father’s posts on Weibo and Baidu, another online site, recounting the incident disappeared Wednesday night.