Village official investigated after elderly man tied to tree during lockdown
Published: Jan 20, 2021 11:22 AM

A video circulating on social media shows three anti-epidemic workers wearing red jackets in a village of Shijiazhang, North China's Hebei Province, tying an old man to a tree while another worker scolded him. Photo: Screenshot of online video

Public security organs opened investigation into a village official in North China's Hebei Province after he had a villager who insisted on going out to buy cigarettes during COVID-19 lockdown tied to a tree.

Gaocheng district of the provincial capital Shijiazhuang was categorized as a high-risk area on January 6 and all villagers were put under strict management. 

When the villager, surnamed Cao, insisted on entering Shuifanzhai village to buy cigarettes on Monday during lockdown, the Party chief of the village, surnamed Yan, instructed anti-epidemic workers on duty at the scene to tie Cao to a tree and verbally abused him, according to a notice released by the local government on Wednesday morning.

The case triggered public concerns over some grassroot officials' abuse of power amid epidemic control.

The public security organ has filed a case against Yan, who is suspected of imposing illegal restrictions on another individual's personal freedom, the notice said. The official was suspended from his post, in a decision reached by the local township Party committee and government following the incident. 

A video circulating on social media showed three anti-epidemic workers wearing red jackets tying an elderly man to a tree while another worker scolded him, saying, "You dare to walk around… son of a bitch… how can you still hang around at this critical time!"

The video has circulated widely on Sina Weibo. Some criticized the anti-epidemic workers for abusing their power and overreacting to the man's refusal to listen to suggestions. 

Others took the side of the anti-epidemic workers, saying the villager apparently violated local anti-epidemic rules, and that leaving the village to purchase cigarettes could potentially cause the virus to spread, adding that it was not easy for the volunteers to brave the bitter cold and serve everyone 24 hours a day. 

The Nanying township Party committee and government, which administers Shuifanzhai village, asked anti-epidemic workers to draw a lesson from the incident and resolutely prevent similar incidents from happening again, according to the notice released by the local Nanying government on Wednesday.

A local official from Shijiazhuang told the Global Times on condition of anonymity that most anti-epidemic workers are dedicated to the battle against the virus and treating locals properly. The initial intention of the workers involved in the incident was only to implement local anti-epidemic rules, which is a good thing, but their way of doing it has gone too far, the official said. But sometimes it's difficult for anti-epidemic workers to do their job, he added.

Similar cases occurred in China in the early stages of the epidemic last year when grassroots workers were overstretched to stop social activities, including tying up a villager who refused to wear a mask to a pillar and slapping people for playing mahjong together, leading to denunciations from the public and receiving quick correction.

Global Times