The contrasting epidemiological reports of two coronavirus carriers in Beijing have sparked heated debate about widening inequality in China, laying bare the challenges facing the government’s “common prosperity” drive. Authorities in Beijing on Wednesday released the activity logs of a newly-detected asymptomatic carrier, surnamed Yue, which showed the 44-year-old migrant worker had visited nearly 30 different construction sites across the city from January 1-18. He once shuttled between five different sites in nine hours. Yue came to Beijing to search for his missing son and was responsible for feeding six family members, according to an interview with China News Weekly published on Thursday. Censors banned the story from being shared on WeChat later that day before Police confirmed on Friday the boy had died. His circumstances were a world away from those of 26-year-old bank employee surnamed Li, who was the city’s first known Omicron case. The woman spent New Year’s Day and the following weekend in high-end shopping malls, luxury stores, a stand-up comedy show and skiing. Migrant workers in China waiting for Xi’s ‘well-off’ society to end their misery The sharp contrast between the two has sparked heated debate on social media about China’s wealth gap, a topic that is gaining growing attention in the world’s No 2 economy. Chinese President Xi Jinping has pledged to tackle inequality this year with his “ common prosperity ” strategy. A hashtag about Yue on China’s Twitter-like social media platform Weibo had attracted 19.2 million views and 11,000 comments on Thursday evening. Economists and academics have also weighed in on the issue. “Living in the capital city is so tough,” said Guan Qingyou, chief economist at the Rushi Financial Institute, on Weibo on Thursday. Guan made reference to the Hugo-award-winning Chinese science fiction novel Folding Beijing in his comments. The book portrays a society divided into three classes, each of which has unequal access to time and resources, and interclass mingling is forbidden. “We must be aware that the poor are more vulnerable in the face of disasters,” Sun Liping, a sociology professor at Tsinghua University, wrote in an article published on Thursday to his WeChat account. Hu Xijin, former chief editor of state-owned tabloid the Global Times , said there is still a long way to go for social justice in China. “We need to think more about … how to help people living at the bottom be safer and have more dignified lives,” he wrote on Weibo on Thursday. The pandemic has ratcheted up pressure on Beijing to do something about widening inequality. The per capita disposable income of poor citizens grew 5.9 per cent to 8,333 yuan (US$1,312) in 2021 from a year earlier. High-income groups saw their disposable income grow 6.9 per cent year on year in 2021, according to the data of the National Bureau Statistics. The absolute gap between the low-income and high-income groups widened to 77,503 yuan last year, from 72,425 in 2020. Common-prosperity push has China’s rich and poor asking: ‘What’s next?’ The world’s 10 wealthiest people more than doubled their fortunes from US$700 billion to US$1.5 trillion during the coronavirus pandemic as poverty rates soared, according to Oxfam’s Inequality Kills report released on Monday. Yue said his son disappeared from Rongcheng city in Shandong province in 2020, but after he reported him missing to the police, it took three months for them to open a case, according to local media. That also provoked outage among Chinese netizens. “Big data could easily have spotted a father who is struggling to find his son … but did not help him,” a comment on Weibo read. Police in Rongcheng have now confirmed they are looking into the matter.