Li Wenliang’s Wailing Wall, November-December 2022: “Zero-COVID is Over, but I’m Afraid to Go Out.”

Nearly three years after whistleblower Dr. Li Wenliang’s death from COVID-19, the “Wailing Wall” that emerged in the comments section under his last Weibo post continues to serve as a repository for the hopes, dreams, worries, and opinions of countless Chinese citizens. CDT editors regularly collect and archive Wailing Wall content, including the selection of comments translated below.

In November, visitors to the Wailing Wall talked about long lockdowns in Xinjiang and elsewhere, a fatal fire in Urumqi (in which COVID barriers prevented firefighters from quickly extinguishing the blaze and rescuing residents), gatherings to mourn the victims of the fire, and nationwide protests that broke out soon afterward and morphed into a referendum on political repression

After police cracked down and arrested many of the protesters, many Wailing Wall visitors implored Dr. Li to “protect the children,” referring to the young people demonstrating by chanting slogans and holding up blank white pieces of A4 paper. Others referenced the death of former Chinese leader Jiang Zemin and the attendant mourning period that followed the protests. 

On December 7, the National Health Commission released ten new COVID guidelines, effectively putting an end to China’s long-running “zero-COVID” policy. The announcement inspired a flood of comments on Dr. Li’s Wailing Wall, and CDT ran a special feature: Wailing Wall Special Edition: The Turning Point

Throughout December, large numbers of Wailing Wall commenters discussed the wave of Omicron infections sweeping the nation, fretted about the government’s lack of preparation, and shared personal stories about illness, overwhelmed hospitals, backed-up morgues and crematoriums, and shortages of medicines and home test kits. Many commenters seemed eager to leave the past three years behind, and embark on a better year in 2023.

The following Wailing Wall comments, selected and translated by CDT editors, were originally posted during the week of October 30-November 5, 2022:

Owen·M:Dr. Li, I saw you on the COVID memorial wall in London ❤️

A close-up of pink and red hearts and various messages on a white concrete wall.

Chinese text on the memorial wall: “Dr. Li Wenliang, the people won’t forget you.”

Ghcfchiefplswqer:Dr. Li, Ordos [a city in Inner Mongolia] issued a statement about the pandemic today. It’s the best local government statement I’ve seen in the past three years. It’s humanistic, responsible, methodical, shows respect for the law, and generally emphasizes that human life is paramount. I’m a bit excited, and a bit relieved. I’m sure you’re also relieved to hear this kind of news.

按时开会1984:Dr. Wenliang, I haven’t been here for a long time. I thought your Weibo had disappeared, but I came today to have a look, and it turns out that everyone is here, keeping a watch over you, pouring their hearts out to each other, and showing each other warmth. [Chinese]

Wailing Wall comments from November 6-12, 2022:

总是饿有限公司试吃员:Urumqi, Xinjiang has been locked down for 87 days. I don’t know what’s scarier: the virus, or people’s heartlessness. No one cares about us. No one sees us. No one speaks up for us. The virus hasn’t killed us. But 88 days of zero income and exorbitant prices (only one bag of vegetables a week) is the death of a thousand cuts. Are they trying to kill us?

郭郭织围脖:I really hope that someday, the people in this country will be able to commemorate you publicly, and not just here, online.

In a leafy park, a small metal sign on a green park bench reads: “In memorial of Dr. Li Wenliang, who sounded the alarm on COVID-19.”

小顽石19:On WeChat moments, I saw that someone posted a photo of a bench in Central Park engraved with your words. When I can go abroad, I want to see it, too. I hope that all is well with your family. [Chinese]

Wailing Wall comments from November 13-19, 2022:

益昌镇的长笛乐师:Dr. Li, I rewatched the movie “Moon Man.” Watching that scene where Shen Teng sacrificed himself to blow up the meteorite, I don’t know why, but I thought of you. 😭😭😭 [Chinese]

A still from the film “Moon Man” shows a determined-looking male astronaut in a yellow spacesuit and a spherical glass helmet, and the words, “My shoulders can carry the weight of the Milky Way.”

Astronaut meme from the film “Moon Man”: “My shoulders can carry the weight of the Milky Way.”

Wailing Wall comments from November 20-26, 2022:

拥有朗朗晴天:😭😭😭 Dr. Li, it’s been three long years since you left us, and there’s been an increasing number of events that give us cause for somber reflection. Today I heard that 10 people died in that fire in Urumqi—it’s heartbreaking, truly heartbreaking! I hope that the new spring breeze will not forget this winter’s “fallen leaves.”

Ci什么ci:If you see those 10 people from yesterday, please hug them for me, especially the five-year-old child. Lift him high into the air.

Mr_E爷:Image Commentary:

A black and white illustration of a little girl in a surgical mask hugging a younger boy in a mask, trying to protect him from the flames that surround them.

时青言:“Some residents lacked the strength or skills to save themselves” vs. “The people trapped in the fire didn’t shout, ‘Run!’ but instead shouted, ‘Open the door!’” It’s too suffocating, depressing, and hopeless. Good night.

你也喜欢吃草莓吗w:They are blaming those who can no longer speak for themselves for lacking “the strength or skills to save themselves.” [Chinese]

Wailing Wall comments from November 27- December 2, 2022:

赵十七爷:Doctor Li, the wind is blowing, bless the children.

爱上米兰30年:Please protect those brave children.

爱喜如我:Please protect every brave person.

桥下望星辰:Dr. Li, when will this pandemic end? I am so sad, because I’ve seen so many bleak aspects of our society. I’ve discovered that some people want to blindfold our eyes, cover our ears, and seal our mouths. There’s a lot of news that can’t be reported, and a lot of scenes that I’m not allowed to see.

执着守候的山人:Please bless those brave people tonight, Dr. Li.

叶绿之素:Brother, I expect that someday, when people look back on the past three years, they’ll think of us as pathetic and ignorant. [Chinese]

Wailing Wall comments from December 3-9, 2022:

笨笨小鸭125:Dr. Li, tonight our small town finally started to dismantle the fences. They were up from August 6 to December 7, four months! Because of their pandemic policy, 300,000 of us were locked up at home, and it’s finally over! I really hope this sort of thing never happens again. Everyone is completely exhausted and can’t stand it anymore!

游龙当归海0301:We’ve gone from one extreme to another.

淡淡浅浅a:Dr. Li, after three years, they still won’t admit their mistakes, and they’re still churning out lies.

米素咔咔:Today, a friend asked me, “It’s been three years since COVID started, and when you look back, who do you think of?” I answered, “Li Wenliang.”

Sylvia左:Today is December 6, 2022, Dr. Li. Today we sent Old Jiang [Jiang Zemin] on his final journey. The pandemic is over, and many places have stopped doing nucleic acid testing. I hope you can see all this from up there in the heavens.

小羊咩666:“The tree wishes only for silence, but the wind will not cease.”

A sketch of Dr. Li Wenliang forms the backdrop to this concert performance.

请叫我呵呵呵呵哒:Doctor Li, Iran has abolished the morality police. The power of the people is strong. [Chinese]

Wailing Wall comments from December 10-17, 2022:

尊贵的戏箱子:Zero-COVID is over, but I’m afraid to go out.

赵丽颖抱着我睡觉:Oh yeah, you must have seen it over there: Messi led Argentina to the final. I think you must have liked soccer in your youth, so I wanted to share the joy with you. Whether you win the championship or not, it’s not the outcome that matters, it’s the process, isn’t it? It doesn’t matter if you’re doubted, or misunderstood, or not favored, as long as you try your best and don’t let yourself down, as long as your results are good, then that person is worthy of respect and recognition. Of course, I am not just talking about Messi.

袖口有毛圈:Dr. Li, did you know that another doctor, a [trainee named] Dr. Chen, passed away today? He wasn’t allowed to rest after testing positive for COVID. They only tried to resuscitate him when he was on his last gasp, after his oxygen level had dropped below 10%. That poor man. If you see him, give him a hug, okay?

麻酱打麻将:Studying medicine is really tough. Do you have any regrets?

The ground in front of a massive stele is a sea of flowers, crowded with funereal bouquets.

打打酱油的小蛮:I saw a phrase today: “Schindler’s Meow” [refers to smuggling one’s cats to safety before going into quarantine so that the animals are not killed by pandemic workers.] Everyone’s getting COVID, and we’re finally emerging from this pandemic. At least now I don’t have to worry about my cat being culled if I get infected.

上个名字不好听_:We traded three years of freedom for health, and now we’re trading mass infection for future freedom. May the future be better! [Chinese]

Wailing Wall comments from December 18-24, 2022:

木木夕二1223:Dr. Li, I’m here again. Today is Christmas Eve. How are you over there? My husband and I both tested positive, but luckily, our kid(s) and parents are fine. Please bless them so that they never get COVID and always stay healthy and happy. Thank you, Dr. Li.

格格大王爱学习:Dr. Li, thank you for saving the world. I only wish that our country’s reopening had been better planned. Right now, I can’t even find a thermometer for sale. I hope you’ll bless and protect us.

Bubudui:Nucleic acid tests are no longer required to enter or exit hospitals. Had that been the case seven months ago, my grandfather wouldn’t have died.

当兔子爱上龟:Dr. Li, only now do I understand the helplessness and despair you must have felt that day.

杭门堂主:The pandemic has only just begun. It’s just that the outbreak was postponed for three years. Those who can’t weather it will die, all the same.

Sneaker-ZC:Dr. Li, many years from now, when we can look back objectively on this event, it won’t be too extreme to call them “executioners.” [Chinese]

Wailing Wall comments from December 25-31, 2022:

孙洒洒SNWNLN:I’m an emergency department nurse. Since they ditched COVID controls, we’ve been working day and night, and we’re seeing “white lung” [“COVID lung”] everywhere. I want to quit. I feel like I can’t take it anymore.

雨后阳光8883:Fare thee well. First merciless lockdowns, then chaotic reversal, and now everyone’s caught in the trap. 😭😭😭

大荔出奇:Dr. Li, funeral shrouds are getting expensive, and the shroud-seller said it’s because too many people have died recently. I’m grieving.

北京石律:Good evening, Wenliang.

Sheep grazing on a plain against a backdrop of towering mountains, blue sky, and billowing clouds. [The Chinese characters 羊 “sheep” and 阳 “positive”—as in positive for COVID-19—have the same pronunciation, yáng.]

哎呦喂啧啧啧:Dr. Li, I also tested positive, but I’m recovered now. It’s still chaos here. For three years, all we’ve done is take nucleic acid tests, build field hospitals, and lock people indoors. Nothing’s been prepared: no fever-reducing medicines, no vaccines, no frontline therapeutics, no prioritized diagnosis or treatment, and no ICU beds. There’s nothing. They ditched zero-COVID policy overnight. […] Dr. Li, I miss you.世界可爱姑娘:In the years since you’ve been gone, they still won’t permit us to tell the truth. [Chinese]

CDT’s Wailing Wall archive, and selections here, compiled by Tony Hu.


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