With many in China still unconvinced that local and national governments did all they could, based on available information, to respond to and educate the public about the novel coronavirus, some are looking for a more suitable official explanation, and others are demanding the government be held accountable. Tan Jun, a civil servant who works as an administrator for Yichang City Children’s Park Management, earlier this month attempted to file a lawsuit at his district court, which if successful would legally compel the Hubei government to publicly apologize for its mishandling of the outbreak, and also take on all relevant legal costs. Tan’s complaint uses officially published information as evidence that government inaction and concealment led to an “unprecedented loss of life and property” for Hubei citizens. The district court in Yichang–a city hard hit by the outbreak, about 200 miles west of Wuhan–claimed it didn’t have authority to try the provincial government, but Tan has pledged to continue appealing to higher courts. A WeChat article that has been deleted for “violating regulations of the Cybersecurity Law” reports on Tan’s lawsuit–the first against the government for its handling of the outbreak–and includes his complaint. The article and supplemental court filing has been translated in full:
Tan Jun: “Someone Must be Held Responsible”
On the morning of April 13, Tan Jun went to Yichang’s Xiling District court to file a complaint.
Yichang, Hubei functionary Tan Jun.
Recently a public lawsuit was brought against the Hubei provincial government for concealing the epidemic, leading to a significant loss of the people’s lives and property. This is the first time a person in China has publicly sued the government for this epidemic.
Tan Jun said: “We need someone to take responsibility for this, this is a very serious matter. I am acting as a Hubei citizen who believes it necessary to stand up and appeal, to make the Hubei government come out and take responsibility.”
Tan Jun stated on April 15 that he believed the provincial and city governments had already long known about human-to-human transmission; people had already died, but it was still not put in check. He sued the Hubei government for concealing the epidemic, leading to significant loss of life and property.
He provided the following primary evidence:
- The Hubei Health Commission on January 11, 2020 issued a notice stating no medical personnel had been confirmed to be infected, nor had human-to-human transmission.
But, according to the admissions of the March 19 National Supervisory Commission “Report on the Investigation of Dr. Li Wenliang’s Situation,” human-to-human transmission of the novel coronavirus had occurred in December 2019.
Administrative Statement of Charges
Plaintiff: Tan Jun, Han ethnicity, I.D. Number: XXX, Address: Xiling District, Yichang City, XX, Telephone No.: XXX, Work Unit: Yichang City Children Park Management
Defendant: Hubei Provincial People’s Government, Residence: 7 Hongshan Rd, Wuchang District, Wuhan City, Hubei Province, Tel: XXX
Legal Representation: Wang Xiaodong, Position: Governor
- Legal order to publish an apology in the Hubei Daily for one day
- Legal fees shall be assumed by the defendant
Facts and Justification:
In December 2019, in the early stages of the novel coronavirus outbreak it was known that it could be passed by human transmission. On January 11, 2020, the defendant Hubei Provincial People’s Government held the third meeting of the 12th Hubei Provincial People’s Political Consultative Conference and the third meeting of the 13th People’s Congress of Hubei on January 12, creating a mobile source of infection. The defendant failed to stop the “10,000 Family Banquet” in the Baibuting Community, exposing 40,000 households to a risk of infection, and leading to a concentration of infections and transmission.
According to the “Report on the Investigation Into the Circumstances Involving Dr. Li Wenliang,” issued by the PRC National Supervisory Committee on March 19, 2020, it was determined that the novel coronavirus had already infected people in December (or maybe earlier). On January 11, the Wuhan Municipal Health Commission issued the “Report on the Viral Pneumonia of Unknown Origin,” which reported “no infections of medical personnel and no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission,” deliberately downplaying the epidemic. To summarize, the defendant is suspected of downplaying and covering up the situation, leading people to neglect the harmful effect of the virus, relax their vigilance, and overlook personal protection. The suppression of expression related to the epidemic situation caused it to spread rapidly and severely, collapsing the medical system, with hospitals overcrowded and intensive units full. Many patients were not diagnosed because that would then require treatment that the hospital was unable to provide. Many medical personnel and residents died after contraction, and ultimately the entirety of Hubei province was sealed. Hubei people visiting other provinces were abused and discriminated against, resulting in unprecedented loss of property and life. This suspected malfeasance and inaction seriously violates the people’s personal and property rights, and the defendant should take legal responsibility to publicly apologize on the front page of the newspaper “Hubei Daily.” According to Article 12, Section 12 of the “PRC Administrative Procedural Law,” an administrative lawsuit is filed.
Xiling District People’s Court, Yichang City
Attach: (1) One copy of your identification card; (2) Three pieces of written evidence.
At six or seven in the evening, a group from the Xilin district sub-bureau of the Domestic Security Department summoned [Tan] to the regional police station. They made him write a declaration, and requested that he refrain from again posting lawsuit-related material online, including pictures and screenshots.
But, they said: “You can bring a lawsuit in accordance with legal process.”
Because foreign media are “unfriendly,” [the officers were] afraid [material online] could influence national security.
Tan Jun said: “I collected evidence, and it’s all officially released documents. I didn’t fabricate this, they’re just scared.
“The main reason is Fang Fang’s diary being published overseas, they’re already very heated. I am from Yichang, I am the first to sue the government as a coronavirus victim, but they say this matter is more serious.”
When Tan Jun went to the Xiling district court to file his complaint, the court staff told him they didn’t have the power to hear a case prosecuting the government. He’d have to go to Wuhan Intermediate Court.
On the afternoon of April 15, Tan Jun said he had already mailed his complaint to Wuhan Intermediate Court, and that it should arrive by the next morning.
“Someone must be held responsible.”
Tan Jun is a civil servant, he works in the Yichang Children’s Park Management department. Speaking about the reason for his lawsuit against the Hubei government, he said:
“(Authorities) didn’t stop the Baibuting community from holding the “10,000 Family Banquet,” causing many people to become infected. From January 11-12 Wuhan held the Two Sessions, at which time the outbreak was underway and was deliberately hidden. When the representatives returned from Wuhan to their various regions, this increased the spread.”
Tan Jun said that people from Hubei are being discriminated against, even being beaten, all over the country, which hurts him as a fellow Hubei person.
“Someone must be held responsible, this matter is very serious. I am here as a Hubei citizen who believes we must stand up and call for the Hubei government to be held responsible.”
According to the lawsuit, Tan Jun has two demands:
First, the Hubei Provincial Government must publish an apology in the Hubei Daily for one day. Second, the legal costs are to be incurred by the defendant.
Tan Jun said that winning or losing is no longer important.
He has already bravely taken the difficult step of becoming a “citizen who is suing officials.” “I look at winning or losing with indifference. Winning would of course be best, but if I lose I have no regrets.”
It is not known if the Wuhan Intermediate Court has received the complaint, or whether they will file the case.
If they don’t, Tan Jun will submit the complaint to a high court. [Chinese]