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Some of the relatives of coronavirus victims who died in Wuhan have accused the Chinese authorities of deleting their group on social media app WeChat and pressuring them into silence as the World Health Organisation (WHO) team exits quarantine to investigate the origins of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The relatives of those who died in the first epicentre of the pandemic had grouped together to try to raise awareness and bring accountability to those they think are to blame for mishandling the outbreak in its infancy.
However, they claim the government is obstructing them and monitoring their social media activity.
That pressure has only increased as the WHO officials arrived in China for a long-awaited and highly sensitive investigation into the origins of the pandemic.
The WeChat group, which contained between 80 and 100 relatives of those among the dead in Wuhan, was inexplicably deleted around 10 days ago, according to outspoken critic and group member Zhang Hai.
The 51-year-old, who lost his father to the virus, said: "This shows that [Chinese authorities] are very nervous. They are afraid that these families will get in touch with the WHO experts."
The experts from the WHO arrived in China on 14 January, and have emerged from their quarantine today (28 January).
Zhang added: "When the WHO arrived in Wuhan, [authorities] forcibly demolished [the group]. As a result we have lost contact with many members."
WeChat is owned by Chinese tech giant Tencent, and it is not unusual for platforms to censor content that could be deemed as dissent against the government.
According to the figures released by China, 4,636 people have died throughout the pandemic, with the bulk of those - nearly 3,900 - in Wuhan.
The relatives accuse the authorities in Wuhan and Hubei province of allowing the virus to spread out of control by attempting to conceal the outbreak at the start in December 2019.
They also claim the government failed to alert the public to the danger.
Another anonymous Wuhan resident who lost her daughter to the virus told AFP she was asked by authorities not to 'speak to media or be used by others'.
She says they visited her house and gave her a 5,000 yuan (£565) 'condolence payment'. Courts have also reportedly rejected lawsuits from the families of relatives seeking compensation and asking for the punishment of officials.
Zhang implored the WHO officials to meet with relatives, warning that investigators could be misled or obstructed by Chinese authorities.
The virus is believed to have first transmitted to humans from bats and spread from a wet market in Wuhan, but little more is known than that.
China initially rejected calls to allow WHO investigators in, but relented in May, leading to the investigation that is due to commence today.
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