China passed ‘extraordinary, historic test’ on COVID-19, says President Xi

In a lavish ceremony, Xi honours frontline medical workers, but there’s no mention of Li Wenliang who first raised alarm about the pandemic

Xi Jinping also warned of greater unstability and uncertainty | File photo: PTI

After being blamed by nearly the whole world for mishandling the Covid-19 pandemic, Chinese President Xi Jinping said on Tuesday China passed “an extraordinary and historic test”.

President Xi’s remarks came at a triumphant awards ceremony for medical professionals. China’s official machinery has showered praise on the country’s Covid-19 response, calling it as an example of the agility and organization of the Communist leadership.

Xi gave away medals to selected front-line workers for containing and handling the COVID-19 pandemic. The Chinese President called the workers “heroes”, claiming that the country went through “heroic struggle” against the novel coronavirus. “We quickly achieved initial success in the people’s war against the coronavirus. We are leading the world in economic recovery and in the fight against Covid-19.”

China has come under intense global scrutiny over its response to the virus, with the United States and Australia leading accusations that Beijing covered up the origins and severity of the virus.

Tuesday’s lavish ceremony in the Great Hall of the People began with a minute’s silence for those who lost their lives during the outbreak.

The four awardees included 83-year-old Zhong Nanshan — the country’s most famous medical expert who emerged as the face of China’s fight against the contagion. He was awarded China’s top national medal by Xi, who placed it around Zhong’s neck.

“We will join hands with the… world’s medical workers to continue the fight in tracing the origins of the virus,” said Zhong.

Three others were given the honorary title of ‘The People’s Hero’ — biochemical expert Chen Wei, the head of a hospital in Wuhan, and a 72-year-old expert in traditional Chinese medicine. Some delegates were in tears during a series of speeches.

Beijing insists the source of the virus — which first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year — is still unknown.

There was no mention of whistleblower doctor Li Wenliang, who was among the first to be silenced for raising the alarm about the outbreak and later died from the disease.

Before the ceremony, state broadcaster CCTV showed a video montage of Wuhan at the peak of the outbreak set to rousing music, including images of medical staff in hazmat suits and crowded hospitals.

According to official figures, 4,634 people have so far died in China from Covid-19. The government has largely contained the outbreak through a serious of strict lockdowns and travel curbs.

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