Hammer falls on crisis cadres

Beijing has replaced the Communist Party heads in the virus-stricken province of Hubei and its capital Wuhan - the most high profile officials to be dismissed in the wake of the epidemic. The removal of Jiang Chaoliang, party secretary of Hubei, and Ma Guoqiang, his...

Reuters and staff reporter

Friday, February 14, 2020

Beijing has replaced the Communist Party heads in the virus-stricken province of Hubei and its capital Wuhan - the most high profile officials to be dismissed in the wake of the epidemic.

The removal of Jiang Chaoliang, party secretary of Hubei, and Ma Guoqiang, his counterpart in Wuhan, follows the dismissal of two provincial health officials a day earlier and is part of a wider effort by Beijing to remove bureaucrats it accuses of shirking their duties.

The central government has set up a special cabinet task force under Premier Li Keqiang to handle the crisis, and the new appointments in Hubei suggest that senior leaders are taking greater control.

Shanghai mayor Ying Yong has been appointed the new secretary of the Hubei Provincial Committee, replacing Jiang, Xinhua News Agency said, without saying why Jiang was removed.

Ying worked closely with President Xi Jinping during the latter's time as party boss and governor of Zhejiang province, which neighbors Shanghai.

Ma has been replaced by Wang Zhonglin, party boss of Jinan, the capital city of eastern Shandong province, Xinhua reported.

Ma has pledged to contain the outbreak in the region, according to state media, while Yong was also quoted in the report as saying the situation in Hubei still remained very severe.

Officials in Hubei have been heavily criticized for their handling of the epidemic in a province of almost 60 million people.

Ma admitted in a nationally televised interview that the impact of the virus on China and on the world "would have been less" if containment measures had been taken sooner.

Also yesterday, the People's Liberation Army has deployed another 2,600 medical personnel to Wuhan to provide an additional 1,560 hospital beds for patients.

The medics come from various troops, including ground force, marines, air force, rocket force and armed police. The first batch of 1,400 people arrived in Wuhan yesterday.

So far the PLA has sent three batches of personnel totaling 4,000 people to fight the outbreak.