China pledges to tell SARS 'truth'
By Willy Wo-Lap Lam, CNN Senior China Analyst
HONG KONG, China (CNN) -- Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao has pledged China will "speak the truth" in disclosing facts and figures about Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).
Beijing -- criticized internationally for its slow reaction to and guarded responses about the extent of the outbreak -- has also urged leaders of all levels to assume personal responsibility in fighting the pneumonia epidemic.
In a sign Beijing is giving top priority to containing the SARS threat, Wen on Sunday chaired his cabinet's second meeting on the subject in a week.
The premier said the disease had not only threatened the health and lives of Chinese but also "China's national interest and international image."
Latest official statistics say there are 1,336 cases of SARS infection in mainland China, and 1,151 in Hong Kong. There have been 58 and 40 deaths from SARS in each respectively.
Wen listed a six-point instruction for officials and health specialists, which emphasized full disclosure of figures and active cooperation with international bodies.
"We must detect [SARS cases] at the early stage, give out speedy reports, quarantine [patients] early, and accomplish speedy treatment," the official media on Monday quoted Wen as saying.
The premier urged periodic and truthful reporting of SARS figures.
He said China "must insist on stating the facts" when telling the international community about latest developments of the epidemic.
In particular, Wen stressed more cooperation with international medical bodies such as the World Health Organization.
In the past month, the WHO and numerous governments in Asia and the West have criticized Beijing for hiding information about SARS.
The premier added leading cadres of all levels, including provincial Communist party secretaries and governors, must personally attend to the anti-SARS campaign, and that they would be held responsible for the results.
Meanwhile, President Hu Jintao has told Hong Kong Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa the central government will extend full support for the special administrative region's battle against the epidemic.
Hu met Tung last weekend at Shenzhen, a city just north of Hong Kong.
The Xinhua news agency on Monday quoted Hu as telling Tung that "the central government will give full support to Hong Kong and help the city win victory in the fight against SARS."
Xinhua also reported that the new president "approved the efforts of the HKSAR government to maintain prosperity and stability in Hong Kong and to treat, prevent and control SARS."
Since the epidemic erupted a month ago, the Tung administration has been criticized by Hong Kong legislators and health professionals for dragging its feet in declaring a city-wide emergency and in isolating infected patients and their relatives.