A Chinese commentator previously working as an editor for a state-run newspaper is calling for China's government to provide more transparency in research related to the COVID pandemic.
Prominent Chinese commentator Hu Xijin said over the weekend that epidemic experts ought to speak out and that the Chinese government should conduct more comprehensive research and make the results of such studies, including the upsides and downsides, available to the public, Reuters reported.
Hu, formerly the editor-in-chief of the state-run Global Times tabloid, noted that in the future, "China needs very rational research and calculations."
"Experts must speak out, and the country should organise comprehensive studies and make them transparent to the public," Hu said.
The commentator then specifically point out to two important things in light of the said research, saying "what are the pros and cons for our common people, and what are the overall pros and cons for the country?"
Hu's comments come at a crucial time when the Chinese government, known for its tight grip on the internet, is preparing for a major Communist Party congress in a few weeks' time.
Months ago, the Chinese government warned that it would combat any comment or action that would go against China's strict COVID policies.
While other countries ease restrictions and requirements, China has intensified its campaign against COVID just this year, apparently in response to the Omicron variant.
Some cities in China have been locked down and citizens were forced to stay inside facilities. People have also been subjected to routine PCR tests in order to be given access to public spaces.
China's strict COVID policies, including the pushback against anything that could paint the Chinese government's response to COVID in a bad light, extends to the internet. The Chinese government is known for censoring netizens that it considers a threat to political and social stability.
Hu's recent comments, then, come as an encouragement to the Chinese who have been wearied by the intensified efforts against the virus. It was welcomed by thousands of netizens on Chinese microblogging site Weibo, among others.
"I don't mind being infected, but I fear you can't help but stop me from moving freely," a Weibo user commented on Hu's post.
"Oppose excessive epidemic prevention," another Weibo user wrote in response.
Aside from calling for honesty and transparency, Hu also called on the Chinese communist government to be more "understanding" of the Chinese people's concerns.
"The people must trust the state, but the state must also trust the understanding of the people," Hu said.