- The growing number of Chinese public figures whose deaths are being made public is prompting people to question the official Covid death toll.
- The death of Chu Lanlan, a 40-year-old opera singer, last month came as a shock to many.
- Her family said they were saddened by her “abrupt departure”.
China scrapped its strict zero-Covid policy in December and has seen a rapid surge of infections and deaths. There are reports of hospitals and crematoria becoming overwhelmed.
The deaths of Chu Lanlan and others is sparking speculation about greater losses than those reported on official accounts. According to the specialist news website Operawire, Chu Lanlan was a soprano who specialized in Peking Opera – a theatrical art in which performers use speech, song, dance and combat movements to tell stories – and was also involved in charitable causes.
Gong, 83, was known to many households for his performance in the country’s longest-running TV series, In-Laws, Out-laws. His portrait of Father Kang had captivated fans for more than two decades since the show first aired in 2000. The cause of his death is unclear, but many social media users linked it to the recent deaths of other older people. “Please god, please treat the elderly better,” his co-star Hu Yanfen wrote on Chinese social media platform Weibo. Meanwhile Hu Fuming, a former journalist and retired professor of Nanjing University, died on 2 January at the age of 87. He was the main author of a famous commentary published in 1978 that marked the start of China’s “Boluan Fanzheng” period – a time of eliminating chaos and returning to normal after the upheaval of the Cultural Revolution under the country’s first Communist leader Mao Zedong.
Zero Covid Policy
None of these deaths were linked to Covid in their obituaries, but that hasn’t prevented speculation online. But there was also criticism of demonstrators who took to the streets in November in rare political protests calling for the end of leader Xi Jinping’s zero-Covid policy. “Are those people happy now, seeing old people… now paving the way for their freedom?” asked one social media user.
Mr Xi appeared to refer obliquely to the protests in his New Year’s address, saying it was natural in such a big country for people to have different opinions. But he urged people to come together and show unity as China entered a “new phase” in its approach to Covid. The Chinese authorities are aware of the widespread skepticism although they continue to play down the severity of this wave of Covid sweeping the country.
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