China has imposed some of the toughest lockdowns in the world to stop Covid-19. One city sealed apartment doors, leaving residents with dwindling food and medicine. One village tied a local to a tree after he left home to buy cigarettes. Beijing forced people to leave their pets behind when they went into quarantine.
Few officials spoke up against the excesses, given the central government’s obsession with its anti-coronavirus campaign. That hasn’t stopped Dr. Zhang Wenhong.
Dr. Zhang, an infectious-disease specialist and perhaps China’s most trusted voice on Covid-19, has spoken out publicly against excessive lockdowns, though he hasn’t criticized individual cities. Fighting the pandemic, he likes to say, is like “catching mice in a china shop.”
“We hope that our pandemic prevention measures won’t affect public life too much,” Dr. Zhang wrote on Jan. 24, after a second wave of infections prompted tough clampdowns.
video a few days later, “life would be too hard.”
Dr. Zhang may be China’s closest analogue to Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, the American infectious-disease specialist who became the public face of stopping the coronavirus amid the chaos of the Trump administration. A consummate technocrat, Dr. Zhang comes across as neither political nor ideological. Yet, by offering his expert opinions straight, he pushes back against the authoritarian instinct in a system that often overreacts with draconian measures.
A top academic at Fudan University in Shanghai and a member of the Communist Party, Dr. Zhang led Shanghai’s expert panel on Covid-19, giving him considerable authority over the city’s response.
propaganda, conspiracy theories and crude nationalism.