New Hubei chief pledges to contain virus

Top leaders are taking greater control, removing officials ‘shirking duties’

Published - February 14, 2020 03:06 am IST - BEIJING/SHANGHAI

The new Communist Party chief of Hubei province, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in China, said on Thursday he would contain the virus but that the situation remained severe.

Shanghai Mayor Ying Yong was brought in as party head in Hubei after his predecessor and the party chief of the province’s capital, Wuhan, became the most high-profile officials to be dismissed following the outbreak.

The removal of Jiang Chaoliang, the leading Communist Party official of Hubei province, and Ma Guoqiang, party chief in Wuhan, followed the dismissal of two provincial health officials on Tuesday, 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 China’s senior leaders are taking greater control.

Defending Wuhan

Reporting Mr. Ying’s appointment as the new secretary of the Hubei Provincial Committee of the Communist Party of China, the official Xinhua news agency did not explain why Mr. Jiang had been removed.

In remarks reported in the official Hubei Daily following his appointment, Mr. Ying said he would not fail the party or the people and that he bore a very heavy responsibility.

“At present, the virus situation is still extremely severe,” the paper cited him as saying.

“We will definitely win the battle to defend Wuhan, the battle to defend Hubei, and the battle to prevent and control the disease.”

Mr. Ying worked closely with Chinese President Xi Jinping during the latter’s time as party boss and Governor of Zhejiang province, which neighbours Shanghai.

Mr. Ying, in the same report in the Hubei Daily , cited Mr. Xi as saying that controlling the virus was directly related to social and economic stability and China’s opening up, and was the biggest priority at the moment.

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 Ma has been replaced by Wang Zhonglin, party boss of Jinan, the capital city of eastern Shandong province, Xinhua reported separately.

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