The son of a coronavirus victim who died after contracting the illness in Wuhan, China, is demanding to speak with a World Health Organization team in the country, the Associated Press reported on Tuesday.
Zhang Hai, a native of Wuhan who currently lives in Shenzen, has been organizing other relatives of coronavirus victims to pressure the government for accountability over their response to the pandemic. The relatives have attempted to file lawsuits against local officials in Wuhan, who reportedly concealed the extent of the coronavirus outbreak when it first began.
Government authorities have thrown out the lawsuits, interrogated Zhang, and threatened to fire him and other relatives from their jobs if they speak to foreign media, the AP reported. Meanwhile, a WHO team sent to investigate the origins of the pandemic in China faces resistance from the government.
“I hope the WHO experts don’t become a tool to spread lies,” Zhang said. “We’ve been searching for the truth relentlessly. This was a criminal act, and I don’t want the WHO to be coming to China to cover up these crimes.” Zhang’s father died of COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, on February 1, 2020, after traveling to Wuhan in January 2020.
Shortly after the WHO team arrived in Wuhan earlier this month, the Chinese government shut down chat groups between relatives of victims.
“Don’t pretend that we don’t exist, that we aren’t seeking accountability,” Zhang said. “You obliterated all our platforms, but we still want to let everyone know through the media that we haven’t given up.”
The coronavirus was first detected in Wuhan, which is home to the Wuhan Institute of Virology and the Wuhan Centers for Disease Control. Both labs conduct research into bat coronaviruses.
There is a “growing body of evidence” that the novel coronavirus that caused the pandemic leaked from a lab, former deputy national security adviser Matthew Pottinger said earlier this month.