China has passed “an extraordinary and historic test” with its handling of the coronavirus, President Xi Jinping said on Tuesday at a triumphant award ceremony for medical professionals, decorated with bugle calls and applause .
The country’s propaganda machine has praised China’s response to Covid-19, reframing the public health crisis as an example of the agility and organization of the Communist leadership.
Xi presented four medical “heroes” with gold medals in front of hundreds of applauding delegates on Tuesday, all wearing face masks and remarkably large red flower lapel pins.
“We have passed an extraordinary and historic test,” Xi said, praising the country for a “heroic struggle” against the disease.
“We quickly achieved initial success in the People’s War against Coronavirus. We are the world leaders in economic recovery and in the fight against Covid-19.”
China has come under global scrutiny over its response to the virus, with the United States and Australia leading accusations against Beijing that it was covering up the origins and severity of the virus.
Tuesday’s lavish ceremony in the Great Hall of the People began with a minute of silence for those who lost their lives during the outbreak.
Among the four laureates was Zhong Nanshan, 83 – the country’s most famous medical expert, who has emerged as the face of China’s fight against contagion.
He was awarded China’s Best National Medal by Xi, who placed it around Zhong’s neck.
“We will join with … medical workers around the world in continuing the struggle to trace the origins of the virus,” Zhong said.
Beijing has insisted the source of the virus – which first emerged in the Chinese city of Wuhan late last year – is still unknown.
Three others received the honorary title of “People’s Hero” – biochemical expert Chen Wei, the head of a hospital in Wuhan and a 72-year-old expert in traditional Chinese medicine.
Some delegates were in tears during a series of speeches.
There was, however, no mention of whistleblower doctor Li Wenliang, who was among the first to be silenced for sounding the alarm on the outbreak and later died of the disease.
Ahead of the ceremony, public broadcaster CCTV showed a video montage of Wuhan at the height of the outbreak to catchy music, including footage of medical personnel in hazmat suits and crowded hospitals.
According to official figures, there have been 4,634 deaths in China from Covid-19. The government has largely contained the outbreak with serious lockdowns and travel restrictions.
bur-rox / apj / axn