Chinese authorities scrambling to contain the raging novel Coronavirus epidemic are ready to implement harsh measures including the death penalty to control the outbreak.
The Coronavirus-infected people who conceal their infection and spread the disease “intentionally” in public places could be sentenced to death, officials have told Chinese state media.
As many as 490 (492 globally) have died and over 24400 have been infected from the Coronavirus in China.
China had similarly threatened execution and long jail sentences during the 2002-03 SARS epidemic for anyone avoiding quarantine and spreading the disease.
It had invited criticism from human rights watchdogs.
For the current outbreak, China’s ministry of public security (MPS) – responsible for internal security and a powerful government organ of the ruling Communist party — and local governments at all levels “…vowed to crack down on coronavirus-related crimes to ensure social stability, in which violators could face the death penalty”.
Spreading rumours about the outbreak has been linked to “subversion of state power” and will attract swift and harsh punishment.
Infected people with a history of travelling to areas worst-hit by the outbreak but hiding those facts would also be severely punished.
If spared from the death penalty, a 15-year jail term lies in store for them.
The Changchun police of northeast China’s Jilin province, for example, is investigating a man for allegedly “endangering public security” as he concealed his travel history to a critical epidemic area, and then causing at least five more infections.
The High People’s Court of northeast China’s Heilongjiang province has said it would severely punish 36 crimes related to the prevention and control of the epidemic in accordance with the law, in which violators could face the death penalty.
“People who spread the virus intentionally and endanger public security could be regarded as violating the Criminal Law, which states that actions that ‘endanger public security; can be subject to the death penalty if the situation is severe,” the state-controlled tabloid, Global Times reported.
The MPS will come down heavily on those spreading rumours, the tabloid said.
“Those who use the virus to fabricate or spread rumors, to promote secession from China or undermine national unity, or incite subversion of state power or the overthrow of the socialist system can face a maximum 15-year jail term,” the report added.
Chinese state councilor and MPS minister has directed “…public security organs at all levels to probe illegal and criminal activities that cause trouble and sabotage social order, and resolutely safeguard national political security”.
Manufacturing and selling counterfeit and substandard medicines and medical devices, harming medical personnel, disrupting medical services, blocking or interrupting traffic, and using the epidemic to inflate prices will be severely punished, the ministry said.
The tabloid reported that on January 23, Beijing authorities imposed a maximum 3 million yuan ($429,000) of fine on a local pharmacy that raised the price of N95 masks from 200 to 850 yuan per box.
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