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Mr Zhang Hai defies threats from the state on a daily basis. His social media posts have been censored and authorities have made it clear they’re watching him. In mid-January the world was unaware that a novel coronavirus with attributes that could bring society to a standstill was spreading fast in Wuhan, China.
However, there are claims Chinese authorities did know, but instructed police to pressure doctors in Wuhan hospitals to stay silent.
The hospitals are also accused of not allowing extra protective gear to be worn, even as medical staff fell ill.
Beijing then went as far as to reprimand the first whistleblower, Doctor Li Wenliang, when he tried to go public about the devastating new disease.
Doctor Li tragically ended up dying from the disease that he tried to warn the world about.
Speaking to the Daily Telegraph Mr Zhang Hai whose father died of COVID-19 in Wuhan said: “If the government didn’t cover up the disease in the early stages, my father wouldn’t have died.
“I am furious, so many people lost their lives during this pandemic.
“What they did amounts to murder.”
Now Mr Zhang has filed the first lawsuit in China against the government that seeks restitution for its alleged cover-up of the pandemic.
The unprecedented lawsuit will challenge the veracity of Chinese law, which does not have judicial independence from the state.
Mr Zhang is demanding nearly 2 million yuan, £215,000, from the authorities and the hospital to cover his late father’s government pension had he survived.
He is also demanding an official apology.
He is setting himself up for a head to head encounter with the uncompromising juggernaut that is the Chinese Communist Party and doing so from within China.
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The party will not be too pleased with one of its citizens wishing to challenge the official narrative dictated from Beijing that denies a cover-up, glosses over missteps, and instead focuses on containment success.
The Chinese authorities are working overtime to snuff out anger over its mishandling of the outbreak.
Yang Zhanqing, Mr Zhang’s lawyer, speaking from the US where he sought refuge after being detained in China for his work, said: “The case is very sensitive, so the court will probably give us a cold shoulder.
“At the same time, the court will notify the local government, and the authorities will coerce him to withdraw the lawsuit.”
Another lawyer, Mr Chen Jiangang, who focuses on trying to negotiate settlements for families of those who died, spoke of how the authorities in China have been coercing individuals that attempt to seek damages from the state through the courts.
He said: “The pressure comes from everywhere, not only from the police, but also the Communist Party neighbourhood committees, in the workplace, even relatives at home”.
Mr Chen added: “If you show you are indignant or critical, they can immediately locate you and get information about your family and movements.
“This includes who you talked to and where you have been.”
Mr Chen had to flee China himself and seek refuge in the US after Beijing monitored him 24-hours per day over his human rights activism.
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