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 miscarried.
Li Qiang, director of the medical emergency centre in the historic city of Xi’an, was among officials reprimanded in January over the scandal, which sparked debate about the excesses of Beijing’s zero-Covid strategy.
Footage of the pregnant woman’s harrowing experience went viral on Chinese social media, leading to widespread public outrage.
Li has now been removed from his post, kicked out of the ruling Communist Party and placed under criminal investigation, the provincial party watchdog said in a Tuesday statement accusing him of negligence and corruption.
Li “was seriously irresponsible, triggering several major incidents that sparked negative public opinion online and caused a bad social impact” during an outbreak in Xi’an last winter, the statement said.
It 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 younger players’ screen time and regulate undesirable content.
Li’s alleged illegal gains have been confiscated and he is now under criminal investigation, the statement said.
China is the last major economy committed to stamping out all domestic coronavirus infections, using a combination of mass testing, harsh lockdowns and travel curbs.
But public anger has grown in recent months over heavy-handed enforcement of restrictions, with multiple cases of people failing to receive medical treatment because they were denied entry to hospitals due to Covid rules.
The virus controls have also prompted rare protests including in the capital Beijing and Shanghai, where residents scuffled with hazmat-suited officials during a prolonged lockdown this spring.