By Fan Wang
(BBC) – The growing number of Chinese public figures whose deaths are being made public is prompting people to question the official Covid death toll.
The death of Chu Lanlan, a 40-year-old opera singer, last month came as a shock to many, given how young she was.
Her family said they were saddened by her “abrupt departure”, but did not give details of the cause of her death.
China scrapped its strict zero-Covid policy in December and has seen a rapid surge of infections and deaths.
There are reports of hospitals and crematoria becoming overwhelmed.
But the country has stopped publishing daily cases data, and has announced only 22 Covid deaths since December, using its own strict criteria.
Now only those who die from respiratory illnesses such as pneumonia are counted.
On Wednesday the World Health Organization (WHO) warned that China was under-representing the true impact of Covid in the country – in particular deaths.
But the deaths of Chu Lanlan and others is sparking speculation about greater losses than those reported on official accounts.
According to the specialist news website Operawire, Chu Lanlan was a soprano who specialised in Peking Opera – a theatrical art in which performers use speech, song, dance and combat movements to tell stories – and was also involved in charitable causes.
On New Year’s Day news of the death of actor Gong Jintang devastated many Chinese internet users.