As a measure to ensure that researchers of the World Health Organisation (WHO) could not conduct a fair investigation into the origin of Coronavirus, the Chinese government has shut chat groups of the families of the COVID-19 victims in Wuhan.
The families of the victims say that the Chinese government is trying to suppress demand for an impartial investigation into the origin of the virus, with many of them saying that authorities were intimidating those speaking to foreign media.
Speaking to news agency Associated Press, Zhang Hai, who lost his father due to COVID-29 February last year, said, "Don't pretend that we don't exist, that we aren't seeking accountability."
Zhang said that he has been grouping the relatives of those who died of COVID-19 disease in a bid to seek accountability from the Chinese government. He said that chat groups of these relatives of COVID-19 victims were shut down after experts of the WHO arrived in Wuhan, where Coronavirus originated, to conduct an investigation.
In a strong message to the Chinese government, Zhang said, "You obliterated all our platforms, but we still want to let everyone know through the media that we haven't given up".
China's unwillingness to let WHO officials probe Coronavirus
After denying for months the WHO's request for an investigation into the origins of Coronavirus, China finally agreed to allow an expert team of the WHO to conduct a field study in Wuhan in hopes to find out how the virus spread across the country and the world.
WHO's demands earlier for a probe were rejected by China's Communist government as several world leaders including the then US President Donald Trump accused China of concealing the information related to the origin of Coronavirus.
After months of negotiations with the Chinese government, the WHO expert team reached Wuhan on January 14, which will begin their research after completing the 14-day quarantine period.
Chinese govt suppresses voices of victims' kin
Apart from closing chat groups, the Chinese authorities are resorting to several other coercive measures including intimidating those who are speaking out and demanding a fair investigation into the origin of the pandemic.
Many residents of Wuhan say that the city's government made efforts to downplay the severity of Coronavirus and officials have dismissed the lawsuits and threatened others who are airing their views and speaking to foreign media.
Wuhan residents demand probe
Many residents of Wuhan demand that the WHO expert team meet the families of the COVID-19 victims who say that they are being silenced by the Chinese authorities.
"I hope the WHO experts don't become a tool to spread lies. We've been searching for the truth relentlessly. This was a criminal act, and I don't want the WHO to be coming to China to cover up these crimes," Zhang was quoted as saying by AP.
Yaqiu Wang, a researcher at Human Rights Watch, accused the Chinese government of creating obstacles for the WHO to conduct an investigation in China and blamed that the government doesn't want the world to know the truth about the origin of the virus.
"By creating all sorts of obstacles for the WHO to do an investigation in China, the Chinese government has made it abundantly clear that it has no interest in being transparent and finding the origin of the virus so to prevent the next pandemic," Wang told Newsweek.
He demanded that the WHO officials should respond to the request for meetings from the Chinese citizens who lost their near and dear ones in the pandemic. "If the experts are unable to meet them due to the Chinese government's interference, the WHO should publicly condemn such interference," Wang said.
WHO frustrated with China
According to documents and audio recordings accessed by the AP show that during their meetings, WHO officials expressed frustrations and said that China was not cooperating on giving out information. It is noteworthy that at that time the UN agency was praising China for its response to the virus.
The audio recording of one such meeting shows that WHO's technical lead on COVID-19, Dr. Maria Van Kerkhove said they didn't have sufficient information. "We're going on very minimal information. It's clearly not enough for you to do proper planning," Kerkhove reportedly said.