Beijing’s Mayor Fired As SARS Worsens
BEIJING (AP) _ Beijing’s mayor was fired, state-run newspapers reported Monday, a day after he and China’s health minister were sacked from key Communist Party posts amid criticism over the government’s handling of the SARS outbreak.
Mayor Meng Xuenong was dismissed as part of a ``reshuffling of major officials in the city government,″ state-run Beijing Morning News reported.
The reports Monday came a day after China announced a nearly tenfold increase in cases in Beijing, boosting its total from 37 to 346. Across China, 79 people have died and 1,814 cases of infection have been reported.
The Communist Party newspaper People’s Daily and the official Xinhua News Agency did not say Meng was fired, but reported Sunday that he and the health minister had been stripped of their party posts over the city’s slow response to SARS.
A city government spokesman, Liu Wei, declined to comment on whether Meng _ a veteran of the Beijing bureaucracy _ had been fired, saying such decisions were the responsibility of the Beijing legislature.
A city government spokesman, Liu Wei, declined to comment on whether Meng had been fired, saying such decisions were the responsibility of the national legislature.
The Beijing Youth Daily quoted He Guoqiang, chief of the party organization department, as saying the government had done a poor job of gathering information on the disease, keeping track of new infections and tracing the movements of infected people.
``The party center has decided to make adjustments in the main leadership of Beijing in order to improve the Beijing region’s handling of SARS prevention work and ensure overall stability in the capital,″ He was quoted as saying.
Failure to provide timely and accurate reports on the progress of the disease handicapped prevention and treatment, He reported said at a Communist Party meeting about SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome.
The first known SARS case occurred in southern China’s Guangdong province last November, but no cases were disclosed until February. As SARS began to spread around the world, China faced allegations that it wasn’t sharing all of its statistics.
The paper said the city’s top official, Communist Party secretary Liu Qi, said at the meeting that the city leadership had failed to take adequate measures to deal with SARS. There was no word on any punishment he might face.
The Beijing Morning News and the Beijing Daily reported that Meng’s party position would go to Wang Qishan, the party chief from the southern province of Hainan. Wang has also been nominated to take over as mayor, the papers said.
There also was no immediate word on the fate of Health Minister Zhang Wenkang, who was removed as the ministry’s party secretary and fired from other party posts Sunday. Ministry spokesmen did not respond to questions about Zhang.
Officials also canceled the weeklong May Day vacation, beginning May 1, to prevent tens of millions of Chinese from traveling and spreading the virus.
The dismissals came two days after President Hu Jintao threatened serious punishment for officials who didn’t quickly and accurately report cases of SARS following weeks of criticism that the communist government reacted too slowly to the mysterious, deadly outbreak.
Across Asia, governments weighed tougher measures in their struggle to stop the outbreak that has killed at least 205 people worldwide and infected more than 3,800 _ most of them in Asia.