Once trumpeting the Chinese Communist Party’s interests, China’s firebrand commentator Hu Xijin has unexpectedly appealed for genuine opinions about CCP’s hard-line COVID measures.

In a Weibo post on Saturday, September 24, the former editor-in-chief of state-run Global Times tabloid said, “I sincerely hope that they [experts] will give more comments on the pandemic prevention issues that the public is most concerned about.”

Hu, who was mysteriously removed as the Global Times special commentator last month, questioned whether the current policies are the price to survive the pandemic. 

He wrote, “If the pandemic continues, does it mean that it is inevitable that we will fall into a larger national lockdown or semi-lockdown every now and then?”

Critical comments on the CCP’s pandemic responses are generally prohibited on the mainland’s internet. But in a follow-up post on September 25, Hu openly stated, “China is the only society with a choice, but we did pay an economical price to fight the pandemic. Now more and more people can’t stand the repeated ‘static management.’”

Hu added, “About the future, China needs very rational research and calculations. Experts must speak out, and the country should organize comprehensive studies and make them transparent to the public: what are the pros and cons for our common people, and what are the overall pros and cons for the country?”

The Chinese nationalist’s unexpected calls for real opinions about the CCP’s “zero-COVID” approach came as Hong Kong is preparing to announce the end of mandated hotel quarantine for visitors from overseas on September 30.

Although other restrictions might remain intact, the minor shift in policy, marks Hong Kong’s efforts to move on from isolation and revive the economy.

At the same time, the CCP’s 20th National Congress will be upon us in less than a month. While most are expecting Xi Jinping’s historic third term, there have also been rumors about a military coup that would undo the prospect. 

As The New York Times described it, Xi views the “zero-COVID” policy as much an ideological project as it is a public health one.

The Times said, “He has tied support for the policy to support for the Communist Party, and hailed its execution as proof of China’s edge over Western democracies. He has prioritized nationalism over the guidance of scientists. Any reversal, or adjustment, would seem to undercut his vision, especially ahead of a major Communist Party meeting next month where Mr. Xi is all but assured to extend his rule.”

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