A Chinese official has been sacked for negligence, video game addiction and a litany of other offences, authorities said, after a woman barred entry to hospitals due to Covid-19 restrictions.
Li Qiang, director of the emergency medical center in the historic city of Xi’an, was among officials reprimanded in January over the scandal, which sparked a debate over the excesses of Beijing’s zero-Covid strategy.
Footage of the pregnant woman’s harrowing experience has gone viral on Chinese social media, sparking widespread public outrage.
Li has now been removed from his post, expelled from the ruling Communist Party and placed under criminal investigation, the provincial party watchdog said in a statement Tuesday accusing him of negligence and corruption.
Li “has been seriously irresponsible, triggering several major incidents that sparked negative public opinion online and caused bad social impact” during an outbreak in Xi’an last winter, the statement said.
He also alleged that Li had embezzled public funds, accepted bribes and had a “long-term addiction to smartphone games”.
The Chinese government sees video and mobile games as a source of moral corruption and has taken steps in recent years to limit young gamers’ screen time and regulate unwanted content.
Li’s alleged illegal earnings have been confiscated and he is now under criminal investigation, the statement said.
China is the latest major economy committed to eradicating all domestic coronavirus infections, using a combination of mass testing, tough lockdowns and travel restrictions.
But public anger has grown in recent months over the harsh enforcement of the restrictions, with multiple cases of people not receiving medical treatment because they were refused entry to hospitals due to the rules of Covid.
Virus checks have also prompted rare protests, including in the capital Beijing and Shanghai, where residents clashed with officials in hazmat suits during an extended lockdown this spring.