President Xi Praises China's in Fighting Covid-19

Published September 8th, 2020 - 09:12 GMT
Chinese medical expert Zhong Nanshan (L) receives an award from Chinese President Xi Jinping during a ceremony to honour people who fought against the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on September 8, 2020. NICOLAS ASFOURI / AFP
Chinese medical expert Zhong Nanshan (L) receives an award from Chinese President Xi Jinping during a ceremony to honour people who fought against the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on September 8, 2020. NICOLAS ASFOURI / AFP
The event is to honour the 'heroes' of China's 'people's war' against COVID-19.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping has touted China's role in battling the coronavirus pandemic at a triumphant awards ceremony for medical professionals decorated with bugle calls and applause. 

He told the audience that China has acted in an 'open and transparent' manner over the contagion while 'passing an extraordinary and historic test'.

The speech comes after Beijing today is holding a special event during which the Chinese President honoured the 'heroes' of China's 'people's war' against COVID-19.

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

During the Tuesday ceremony, the nation's propaganda machine has churned out praise for the Chinese government's COVID-19 response, reframing the public health crisis as an example of the agility and organisation of the Communist leadership. 

Xi doled out gold medals to four 'heroes' from the medical field in front of hundreds of applauding delegates on Tuesday, all wearing face masks and strikingly large red flower pins.

The upbeat mood in Beijing comes as concerns grow about a resurgence of COVID-19 across Europe, with France tightening restrictions, cases in Britain spiking and schools resuming around the region in recent days.

Worldwide infections to date now stand at more than 27 million and over 890,000 people have died from the disease, with the pandemic showing no sign of peaking.

But in China the virus has been all but banished through a combination of lockdowns and travel restrictions earlier in the year that have officials touting the nation as a coronavirus success story.  

'We have passed an extraordinary and historic test,' Xi said, praising the country for a 'heroic struggle' against the disease.

'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.'

Xi had stern words for China's doubters saying 'selfish moves, any buck-passing and deeds that confuse right and wrong' risked inflicting damage across the world.

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.

Beijing has insisted the source of the virus - which first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year - is still unknown.

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.

There was no mention however 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 numbers there have been 4,634 deaths in China from COVID-19. The government has largely contained the outbreak through a series of strict lockdowns and travel restrictions.

President Xi also expressed support for the World Health Organization, in a repudiation of US criticism and a bid to rally domestic support for Communist Party leadership.

Xi told the delegates that China´s battle against COVID-19 demonstrated the strengths of its socialist system and traditional Chinese culture in stirring motivation, building consensus and pooling resources.

'We are willing to do whatever it takes to protect people´s lives!' Xi told participants, most of whom wore masks and exercised social distancing.

China says it acted swiftly and responsibly but has rejected calls for an independent investigation into its handling of the emergency.

China has also been a key supporter of the WHO against accusations, mainly from the US, that the organisation is too 'China-centric' in its orientation. Washington is in the process of withdrawing from the U.N. health agency, to which it still owes back dues.

Xi said China would continue to support the WHO in playing a 'leading role in the global fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.'

'All selfishness, scapegoating and confusing right and wrong will not only hurt a country and its people, but harm people of all countries,' Xi said.

China itself had 'helped save a great number of lives from COVID-19 around the world with concrete actions,' Xi said, pointing to the export of 209,000 ventilators, 1.4 billion protective suits and 151.5 billion masks. China also sent medical staff to assist a handful of countries.

During the meeting, Xi also conferred the Medal of the Republic, China's highest civilian award, on famed respiratory disease expert Zhong Nanshan, honouring his work in battling both COVID-19 and SARS, a disease caused by a related virus that occurred in 2002-03. 

This article has been adapted from its original source.

© Associated Newspapers Ltd.

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