Wuhan is released from lockdown as Ren Zhiqiang is put under investigation

Domestic News
Screenshot from Bilibili’s May Fourth Movement propaganda film.

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Real estate magnate Rén Zhìqiáng 任志强 is now officially under investigation after writing an essay critical of Xí Jìnpíng 习近平.

As of today (April 8 in China), the city of Wuhan has officially ended its lockdown, and residents with green health codes (as displayed by a compulsory mobile phone app) can leave the center of the coronavirus outbreak for the first time since January 23. The rest of Hubei Province surrounding Wuhan had restrictions loosened on March 25.

While this is good news, it does not mean life in Wuhan is returning to normal anytime soon:

  • “Neighborhood authorities continue to regulate people’s comings and goings, with no return to normalcy in sight,” reports the New York Times. “Officials continue to urge [in Chinese] everyone to stay at home as much as possible. Schools are still closed.”
  • “Sheets of corrugated metal still block entrances to shuttered businesses on Wuhan’s most crowded pedestrian streets,” NPR correspondent Emily Feng notes on Twitter.
  • “When I heard about the lifting of the lockdown, I didn’t feel particularly happy,” a Wuhan resident told Reuters. “I actually felt very anxious. There are many issues that we are not sure can be resolved: employment, will patients continue to experience long-term effects, and for those who died, how will we remember them?”

Other China COVID-19 updates:

There were officially no new coronavirus deaths in China on April 7, according to the National Health Commission, per AFP.

Rén Zhìqiáng 任志强 is now officially under investigation for “serious violations of law and discipline,” according to a notice (in Chinese) from the Commission for Discipline Inspection in Beijing, the SCMP reports. The well-connected real estate tycoon first disappeared in mid-March. In reality, what he appears to be accused of is challenging the official narrative that General Secretary Xí Jìnpíng 习近平 is a competent manager of the country, and specifically of the coronavirus crisis, in an essay that you can read in translation on the excellent blog Credible Target.

Why is the move against Ren significant? Li Yuan of the New York Times says his silencing “signals a retreat from the principles that led China out of poverty.”

“The 41 Disappeared Coronavirus Articles” is the title of a WeChat article — since deleted, naturally (though preserved here) — by a collection of journalism graduates called Young Weekly. The post documents how, though there was initially a flourishing of local media reporting on whistleblowers, official blunders, and preparation efforts from the early days of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, dozens of high-profile articles have been gradually scrubbed off the Chinese internet. The essay has been translated for SupChina by Jordan Schneider and Erik Stahle.

—Lucas Niewenhuis