China has passed a new law to improve its handling of disease outbreaks -- including protecting whistleblowers -- following a cascade of criticism over its coronavirus response and accusations of an early cover-up
Ophthalmologist Li Wenliang was at first remprimanded after alerting colleagues to the new coronavirus but an outpouring of grief and anger over his death prompted Beijing to redirect criticism to local officials and subsequently paint him as a hero© AFP/File STR, STR
The new biosecurity law, approved by lawmakers on Saturday, flags the right to report “acts that endanger biosecurity” and calls for risk prevention systems, ranging from active monitoring to emergency plans.
“When a report is required according to the law, no work unit or individual shall conceal (it)… or hinder others from making a report,” it added on infectious diseases and epidemics.
China‘s approval of the law comes in the face of Western criticism on the coronavirus, over accusations that it covered up the initial outbreak and silenced early whistleblowers.
Although doctor Li Wenliang who alerted colleagues to the new coronavirus in late December was at first reprimanded, a national outpouring of grief and anger over his death prompted Beijing to redirect criticism to local officials and subsequently paint him as a hero.
President Xi Jinping in February raised the need to speed up establishing the biosecurity law, urging for reforms of mechanisms to prevent major outbreaks.
Under the new law, those who conceal information, omit making reports or prevent others from reporting infectious diseases could be given warnings or suspended.
Although Beijing established an information system after the 2002-2003 SARS outbreak that allowed for real-time reports of outbreaks, provincial authorities came under fire during the coronavirus outbreak for perceived incompetence, including delays in announcing the public health emergency.
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