The COVID-19 coronavirus emerged in Wuhan, Hubei late last year. After belated government acknowledgment of a public health crisis, authorities began an ongoing lockdown of Wuhan in January as the city and country at large continued to reel from the virus. While recent overseas reports of a sharp decline in cases in Hubei note that makeshift hospitals in Wuhan are beginning to close, as recently as last week the city was still facing a critical shortage of supplies.
Poet and writer Fang Fang (方方) has lived in Wuhan since she was two years old, and the city has served as the setting for much of her work. Fang Fang has been chronicling the situation in her beloved hometown on a variety of platforms, and has seen many of her posts disappear and her handles suspended as the government struggles to control the narrative. A recent article by Yuwen Wu at The Independent translates selections from Fang Fang’s posts, noting her reproach of the state propaganda and censorship that has been a primary feature of government relief efforts, and her warning to fellow writers: “You will likely be asked to write celebratory essays and poems. Please pause before you write – who do you want to praise?”
Some of Fang Fang’s censored posts from Wuhan are being archived by CDT Chinese, and her Caixin blog is one of the multitude of sources being preserved on the nCoVMemory Github repository of personal narratives from the outbreak in China. CDT has translated a censored WeChat post from last week, in which Fang Fang expresses the frustrations of lockdown, laments the many displaced and affected by the virus, lauds the brave journalists attempting to uncover truth amid propaganda, and demands accountability from those who allowed the situation to develop:
It is cloudy again. A bit chilly, but not too cold. I walked out to look at the sky. A sky without sunshine is somewhat gloomy and dismal, I thought.
The article I posted on WeChat yesterday was deleted again, and my Weibo account has also once again been blocked. I thought I couldn’t post on Weibo anymore, and then found out that they only censored yesterday’s post and that new posts can still be published. It made me instantly happy. Alas, I am like a frightened bird. I no longer know what I can say and what I can’t. When it comes to something as important as this fight against the epidemic, I’m cooperating fully with the government and obeying all their commands. I’m now just short of taking an oath with a fist over my heart–is this still not enough?
We’re all still stuck at home on lockdown, yet some people are already singing praise to the government and posting book covers about the victory that has been achieved (if they’re not trolling). What do the people of Wuhan have to say? Whether anxious or upset, we’ve put up with it all, haven’t we? Yet even the victory is theirs. Today I saw this phrase: “When you hear someone say ‘we will do this at all costs,’ don’t assume that you are the ‘we’; you are only the ‘cost’ that is being paid.”
I’ll stop talking and continue waiting. I need to maintain serenity, remain steady, and stand by. In the simple words of my elder brother: very bored, watching TV series at home to pass the time.
Today, a doctor friend told me that many people have already been discharged from the hospitals. More than 2,000 people have been cured. It is not difficult to treat those with mild symptoms. The demand for hospital beds has eased up. The number of deaths has also fallen significantly. I did some research: a while ago nearly a hundred people were dying everyday, that number fell to 29 yesterday. Alas, I hope to see zero deaths as soon as possible. Only then can all the anxious families of patients feel at ease. As long as one survives, everything else is easy to deal with. Even if treatment takes a long time, it is acceptable. I just saw a video from the Southern Metropolis Daily which showed the thoughts of a doctor as he rescued his patients, as well as the patient’s own thoughts. It was very moving. A patient who was resuscitated said, “I relied on my strength of will and the faith that my doctor gave.” Another patient said that after having survived such an ordeal, he will cherish every day of life. That’s right, as long as we survive.
It is still incomprehensible that the number of newly diagnosed and infected cases are still so high. This means the epidemic crisis in Wuhan stands at a stalemate. According to yesterday’s situation, more than 900 people were either diagnosed or counted as suspected cases. This is really not the result we want. Those people were most likely infected after the city was put in lockdown. The updates that we are getting could probably be more specific on who these people are, where they were, and under what circumstances were they infected. This information should be made public so that, for one thing, others can take preventative measures; and for another, based on the locations of those that were infected, we can start to release residents who live in far-away areas from home lockdown. My other doctor friend wonders, since the epidemic is now under control with new cases mainly originating from prisons and nursing homes, is it still necessary to keep so many people shut in their homes? Maybe there will be good news in the coming days? I can only guess!
When looking at this from the perspective of the chain of infection, these 900+ cases are a huge number. But, when put into the context of the tens of millions of people in the province, they make up only a very small percentage. It is this small group of people that are tying up tens of millions of healthy people in this province, with no one allowed to move. And for these healthy people, what will they be facing? Will they be facing even greater consequences? I cannot say.
In addition, there are five million Wuhan residents who are being kept out of the province, not allowed to go home. How are they doing these days? Has the discrimination from recent months gotten better now? And some from outside Wuhan are stuck in the city, not allowed to leave. Yesterday I saw an article saying that some of them who could not afford boarding, or could not find an available hotel room, have been staying at the train station. There are others who have nothing to eat and must resort to going through the trash for food others have thrown away. Those who are busy with important things often disregard the little things; those who pay attention to the majority often forget the minority. Fortunately, I later saw another piece of news, which provided “a hotline number for people who are stuck in Wuhan during the epidemic and running into difficulties.” Every district has hotlines like this. It’s just that I don’t know whether these calls actually make a difference. I know, for example, that a lot of official contact numbers are just for show, for the higher-ups. If you actually call one of those numbers, it will prove almost entirely useless. You’ll only come across athletes kicking balls back-and-forth to one another. In the end not only won’t you receive any help, but you’ll also waste your time and raise your phone bill. There are many people working for the government who have learned nothing in their lifetime, but are masters at making fake moves. They will deal with you in ways that you never thought possible. And their ability to shirk responsibility is also top notch. If it weren’t based on this kind of foundation, how else could the epidemic have turned into the disaster that it’s become today?
It is an indisputable fact that Wuhan delayed for more than 20 days from the initial discovery of the virus to the lockdown of the city. Where was the crux of that delay, who exactly is responsible, and for what reason did this person provide the time and space for the virus to spread leading to the historically unprecedented lockdown of Wuhan. Locking nine million people at home is a spectacle, one that you can’t be proud of. The root of this matter must be dug up. Although there are many toady reporters in China, there is also no shortage of very brave ones. In the past few days, we saw a group of journalists asking tough questions and getting to the heart of the matter. In this internet era–where reporters investigate by peeling away layers, and netizens work together to piece together the true nature, key times, and locations of events–the secrets that have been sealed and covered up will eventually see daylight.
No matter what, there are some things we must get to the bottom of. For example, three groups of experts came to Wuhan. Who were these people that came? Who were they led by? Who hosted them in Wuhan? Which hospitals did they visit? Which departments did they go to? How many meetings did they have? Who spoke at those meetings? Which doctors were interviewed? What answers were given? What reports did they look at? What did they learn about the situation? What conclusions were finally reached? Who put the stamp on those conclusions? And so on. After all, the words “no people-to-people transmission, preventable and controllable,” have caused the people of Wuhan great suffering. Once you investigate at that level of nuance, I believe you will find the liar. Why did the liar lie? Who instructed them to lie? Do they know that they were lying? Or, did they know they were being deceived yet were willing to believe in the deception? Did they need to be deceived? Whether officials or experts, we should be able to find out the truth by combing through the threads one by one. A disaster like this cannot be concluded with a simple termination or a removal from office. For the people of Wuhan, the main culprit and their accomplices can’t be forgiven, not one of them! The more than 2,000 people (even more considering those not counted in the statistics), their murdered souls and their families, the medical staff working day and night and risking their lives to save people, the nine million residents struggling to live on in Wuhan, the five million homeless wanderers who can’t go home–each one of them will take the culprit and his accomplices to account.
And now we just wait. Wait first for the city to open, and then for an explanation. [Chinese]