May 18 (UPI) -- Residents of Wuhan could be seeking damages from the city's municipal government, as well as from Hubei Province, according to a Japanese press report.
Yomiuri Shimbun reported Monday a group of Chinese citizens in the city are preparing to file claims, despite government pressure.
Yang Zhanqing, a Chinese activist who previously directed Zhengzhou Yirenping, an NGO, is working with plaintiffs through a legal advisory group created in March.
The Chinese activist's goal is to file a complaint with the People's Court in Wuhan. Yang is also listening to individual cases of residents who have lost family members owing to the novel coronavirus.
In December and January, authorities in Wuhan dismissed evidence COVID-19 spreads via human-to-human transmission, encouraging residents to travel freely and even hold large social gatherings ahead of the Lunar New Year. Human-to-human infection was finally confirmed on Jan. 20.
As residents of Wuhan seek justice, they may be coming under pressure to refrain from taking legal action. Local authorities are discouraging people from participating in any lawsuits, according to the Yomiuri.
Yang says there were originally 12 Wuhan residents interested in seeking damages. Many members of the group have lost family due to delayed action from the local government, according to the report.
By mid-May, four people in the group of 12 had abandoned the lawsuit, according to Yang. One plaintiff who says she lost her husband to COVID-19 said she received an unsolicited phone call from a police officer, warning her against taking action.
"Don't make a political mistake, It will affect your children's school admission prospects," the officer told the plaintiff, according to the Yomiuri.
China has credited its COVID-19 response as a significant achievement. Beijing may be turning its attention to reviving the economy.
The South China Morning Post reported Monday the National People's Congress would begin Friday, following a two-month delay.