Mayor of China's Wuhan draws online ire for '80 out of 100' interview

SHANGHAI (Reuters) - The mayor of Wuhan, the epicentre of China's coronavirus outbreak, drew ire from Chinese internet users for what many saw as an overgenerous self-evaluation of his handling of an interview with state television - despite also offering to step down.

Zhou Xianwang said during an interview with CCTV that the city's management of the epidemic was "not good enough" and offered to resign if that would help the efforts to control the crisis.

The virus, which has killed 81 people, has now spread to most of China and some other countries.

"We locked down the city to cut the spread of virus, but it's likely we'll leave a bad reputation in history," he said. "As long as it helps contain the spread of virus, I'm willing to resign as a form of apology. Wuhan's party chief, Ma Guoqiang, and I will take whatever the responsibility it contains."

But many comments on Chinese social media focused instead on Zhou's sideline remarks - made after the interview had finished but also recorded by CCTV and broadcast online - that he would rate himself at 80 out of 100 for his handling of the interview.

His self-evaluation further fuelled anger towards local officials in Wuhan and Hubei province, where the city is located, where most of the deaths and confirmed patients are based.

"I now understand what shamelessness is," said one user on Weibo, China's version of Twitter.

Zhou acknowledged during the interview that information about the virus outbreak in the early days was not shared quickly enough with the public.

But he blamed the delay partly on regulatory requirements for local governments to seek Beijing's approval for making such disclosures - a statement that also drew ire on social media.

"Your people won't be fooled so easily," said another user on Weibo. "The virus outbreak is just the fuse of Wuhan's long-standing lack of governance and cheating to it's people and the central government!"

(Reporting by Josh Horwitz and Cheng Leng in Shanghai; Writing by Se Young Lee; Editing by Kim Coghill and Alex Richardson)