As anger simmered in Wuhan over the mishandling of the first coronavirus outbreak in early 2020, the Communist Party sent top officials to deal with the growing political crisis. One of them, Sun Chunlan, stayed for three months, rallying local cadres and sourcing protective gear for health workers and hospital beds for patients.

Calling for absolute loyalty in a war against the virus, Sun warned that any deserters would be "nailed to the pillar of historical shame forever.”

Now known as China’s "COVID zero” czar, Sun has become the enforcer of the country’s strict pandemic restrictions. When she arrives in a city in the midst of an outbreak, she is often the online target of derision and frustration, cast as a doomsayer that a lockdown is coming.