A 3-year-old boy died on Tuesday after experiencing delays for a potentially life-saving treatment due to China’s strict zero-COVID policy, according to reports.
Speaking to BBC, Tuo Shilei, the boy’s father, criticized the COVID-19 policy, saying that the “pandemic control went too far” when he struggled to get his dying son Wenxuan out of their compound for more than an hour.“My son’s cause of death was an accident, but during the whole process of our call for help, there was avoidance of responsibility and dereliction of duty,” Tuo, who lives with his family in the city of Lanzhou in China’s Gansu province, told BBC. In a separate interview with Reuters, the 32-year-old father blamed China’s zero-COVID policy for his son’s death, stating that Wenxuan was “indirectly killed.” The incident reportedly occurred in Lanzhou’s Qilihe district on Tuesday afternoon when Tuo’s wife was boiling water with liquid petroleum gas. Tuo heard a loud noise, and upon checking, he saw his wife attempting to stand. Tuo immediately turned off the boiler and performed CPR on his wife on their bed.
After seeing that her condition had improved, Tuo noticed that their son was no longer conscious. Tuo contacted his community’s management team via text to ask for an ambulance, but help did not arrive on time.
A daily dose of Asian America's essential stories, in under 5 minutes.
Get our collection of Asian America's most essential stories to your inbox daily for free.
Unsure? Check out our Newsletter Archive.
Tuo tried to perform CPR on Wenxuan, who was breathing but still unconscious. He then ran to staff members at the COVID checkpoint near their building, but they did not provide assistance and instead asked him whether he had a recent PCR test result, which he said he did not have.
After failing to get help, Tuo ran back to his apartment and saw other residents there to help his family. Good Samaritans helped Tuo carry his child, break through the barrier at the COVID checkpoint and call for a taxi to the hospital.
“There was the COVID situation at the checkpoint. The staff did not act, and then ignored and avoided the problem, and then we were blocked by another checkpoint,” Tuo told Reuters. “No help was provided. This series of events caused the death of my child.”
An ambulance reportedly arrived at the scene after Tuo and his son left.
Upon arriving at the hospital – a 10-minute drive away – doctors immediately gave Wenxuan life-saving treatment, but they were ultimately unsuccessful. Wenxuan died at around 3 p.m. on Tuesday, according to reports.
Tuo revealed to Reuters that following the incident, someone who claimed to be a retired local official said he would give Tuo 100,000 yuan (approximately $13,668) if he agreed not to tell the public about the death of his son or pursue rectification. Tuo said he denied the offer and asked for an explanation for the incident.
The local police issued a statement on Tuesday to confirm the incident and reveal that Wenxuan died of carbon monoxide poisoning. Even with the statement, public outrage still ran rampant both online and in-person. Some angry residents took to the streets to protest against the strict zero-COVID policy in Lanzhou, which has been in lockdown since October.“The three years of the pandemic was his whole life,” one woman can be heard yelling at the police in a recently uploaded video about the protest. The message reportedly became a trending topic online before China’s censorship scrubbed it off social media.
According to BBC, topics about Wenxuan’s death have been viewed more than 800 million times on Weibo as of Wednesday evening.
Tuo said he did not attend his son’s funeral in his family’s nearby hometown of Hezheng on Wednesday morning due to his fear of potentially being quarantined upon his arrival.