On Wednesday, China’s National Health Commission announced ten new pandemic-related guidelines, signaling an easing of the nation’s long-running “zero-COVID” policy (also referred to euphemistically as “dynamic clearance”). The guidelines will put an end to routinized mass testing in all but “high-risk” areas, allow people to isolate at home rather than in centralized quarantine facilities, shorten quarantine periods and ease restrictions on inter-provincial travel, and eliminate the need to show a health code when entering most venues. Other changes include a stepped-up vaccination program to inoculate more seniors against the virus, and a ban on local officials imposing arbitrary blanket lockdowns or limiting residents’ access to antivirals and cold/flu medications.
The announced changes quickly became the trending topic on Chinese social media, with Weibo hashtags about the ten-point plan racking up over 400 million views in a single day. Dr. Li Wenliang’s Wailing Wall, the comment section below the beloved ophthalmologist and whistleblower’s final Weibo post, saw an enormous outpouring of comments as well. The text of the doctor’s final post on February 1, 2020, seemed particularly poignant: “Today, my nucleic acid test result was positive. The dust has settled, and I’ve finally been diagnosed [with COVID-19].”
CDT’s Wailing Wall archive is updated regularly by CDT Chinese editor Tony Hu, who compiles and publishes a selection of comments on a weekly basis. This particular selection, however, which includes comments posted to the Wailing Wall on November 7, 2022, was originally compiled and published by the WeChat account 民法解释学 (Minfa Jieshixue, “Civil Law Hermeneutics”). The vast majority of new comments were brief, with some simply noting that “It’s been three years,” or “It’s finally over.” Many thanked Dr. Li for being a whistleblower—he and some of his colleagues were initially rebuked for drawing attention to the public health risks of COVID-19 in the early days of the pandemic—and assured him that his sacrifice would not be forgotten or in vain:
下雨天tototo：Dr. Li, Shijiazhuang’s lockdown has been lifted, and we don’t have to do daily nucleic acid testing anymore. It’s finally over. I came here to visit you.
阿联骑扣巴赫拉米：The turning point has arrived.
sleepiin：Dr. Li, the long cold winter has passed. Did you hear?
时光荏苒承诺：Dr. Li, it’s been three years. With the announcement of the ten new guidelines, this whole thing is finally coming to an end. You were our hero in the very beginning—are you hearing about this now? I hope all is well with your family.
小洒卅5001：They’ve issued ten new guidelines, so there’s light at the end of the tunnel, although it will take some time to implement them on the ground. As soon as I heard, I rushed here to check out the comments section, and saw how many people still remember you. This is still a place for sharing confidences, grievances, and tears. We won’t forget, we can’t forget. These three years have passed in the blink of an eye. I hope everything gets better.
PCSai：I hope everyone remembers this period of history. Selfless, courageous heroes have always been among us. When certain selfish people vent and complain, fanning the flames of public opinion for their own self-interest, don’t forget that it’s these heroes who have kept us healthy, safe, and alive for three years.
韶华的青春：After three years of the pandemic, today we’re starting to re-open. This may not necessarily be a good thing, but our country tried its best. Thank you for being a whistleblower!
馨馨不可爱了：Looking at all these comments, I want to cry.
sevenbeacon：This farce is almost over, and so many things have happened. The best I can do is vow not to forget, and not to forgive. Rest in peace.
雪中飞翔：Dr. Li, after three years, it’s finally coming to an end. If they’d taken decisive measures back when you first blew the whistle, we could have avoided these three years of chaos. In the end, no one’s ever going to take responsibility for that, but at least the drama is finally over. Rest in peace!
卡布奇诺81781：Dr. Li, it looks like pandemic prevention measures are really coming to an end. Over the past few years, we’ve all posted a lot of comments here, and every time, it’s to vent or complain. This time, we can finally relax a bit.
ThePhantomPain：THE END. [Chinese]