Li Wenliang’s Wailing Wall, March 2023: “This Society Allows Only One Voice—the Sound of Mutual Applause”

Nearly three years and two months 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.

During the month of March, some visitors to the Wailing Wall noted the death of SARS whistleblower Dr. Jiang Yanyong (蒋彦永), who passed away from pneumonia in Beijing on March 11, at the age of 91. A military doctor who alerted the world to the true extent of the 2003 SARS outbreak, Dr. Jiang was initially hailed as a truth-teller and national hero, but was later imprisoned and subject to surveillance and house arrest after publishing an open letter calling for a reappraisal of the 1989 Tiananmen student movement and the massacre that ended it. Official media made no note of his death, his small funeral was monitored by plainclothes police, and essays and articles commemorating his life and contributions were censored online. CDT editors have archived a number of such essays, including a now-deleted tribute from WeChat account 旧闻评论 (Jiuwen Pinglun, “Commentary on Past Events”) that noted: “This, too, is Dr. Jiang Yanyong’s legacy to the world—that telling the truth is indispensable to  safeguarding the public interest.” 

Wailing Wall visitors also left comments commemorating International Women’s Day, which took place on March 8. Others mentioned the change of seasons, school exams, personal and family issues, and economic challenges such as finding jobs or internships, paying the bills, or running a business. A number of students mentioned that they had been inspired to visit the Wailing Wall because they had been learning about Dr. Li Wenliang in school.

The following Wailing Wall comments, selected and translated by CDT editors, were originally posted during the week of February 26-March 5, 2023:

陪着你笑啊609:Hello Dr. Li, last night my WeChat Moments got blocked for 18 days. I don’t know if it has anything to do with me posting remembrances of you to my WeChat Moments. I’ll always cherish your memory.

劳局安:Dr. Li, in May I’m taking the next step toward becoming a Party member, and I hope it all goes smoothly! I will definitely do my best to serve the people, speak for the common people, and stay true to the original aspirations of the Party!

亿条会飞的鱼:In our admin class, we talked about the reprimand you were given during [the early days of] COVID. After reading the reprimand letter, I wondered: at the time, did you feel that it was very unfair? I haven’t talked to you in ages. How are you doing over there?

AlbertMa2018:I’m glad to see that so many people have been coming to visit you here. Reading everyone’s messages of hope, complaint, gratitude, and remembrance made me realize that this place is what humanity is all about. Whether you are here or not, thanks for leaving us such a warm and welcoming place.

念然YR:Dr. Li, our teacher mentioned you today in history class, which suddenly made me want to visit your Weibo page. There are actually many, many things I want to say to you, but it’s best to keep it simple: Thank you! Have a good night! May the pandemic recede and the world be at peace!

入世·:Dr. Li, I wrote about you in an essay. At first, I figured that three years into the pandemic, I wouldn’t remember much about you, but as soon as I wrote the word “whistleblower,” your name immediately came to mind. I still remember getting into arguments with people about what happened to you, and how I tried so hard to distinguish right from wrong, and to see myself clearly … Anyway, thank you, Dr. Li. I will remember you always.

末路狂花zz:Dr. Li, I donated a lot of sanitary napkins to a primary school in Yan’an City. Sometimes I worry that donations of money and supplies won’t reach the girls. I wish this world could be a bit kinder to women.

你可以捏我脸:I came here to see you because today in English class my teacher suddenly started talking about you. [Chinese]

Comments from March 6-11, 2023:

没水也疯长的绿萝: Hello, Dr. Li!At 55, I’ve finally decided to learn to drive! Now that I’m getting ready to retire, I realize there are a lot of things I want to do that I haven’t done yet, and learning to drive is one of them. Once I retire, my life will be my own, and I guess I can do whatever I want!

MoonMoonSummer_: Today is International Women’s Day. Women can move mountains. I wish all women eternal happiness!

揪揪小筋: Respect to all working women, and happy holiday to our sisters all over the world!

张张张张张闻芙啊: My father told me that I should first be myself, and only after that, a daughter, wife, or mother.

友人A_7087: Doctor Li, this society allows only one voice—the sound of mutual applause. // [OP responding to their own comment:] Dr. Li, my comment has been deleted again!

是你的奥利奥QAQ: During today’s sandstorm in Beijing, a cute little monster materialized near the big underpants[nickname for the CCTV headquarters building]:

The OP has transformed this image of CCTV’s Beijing headquarters in a sandstorm into a silhouette of a friendly dinosaur by adding colorful mark-up: a black-and-white eye, a green mouth, some green scales, a tiny black forearm, and a red heart.

The enormous silhouette of CCTV headquarters in Beijing, barely visible amid a sandstorm, is transformed into a friendly monster.


Comments from March 12-24, 2023:

会魔法的砖头: Dr. Jiang Yanyong passed away.

HuangYinYuan_: Dr. Li, why have honest, hard-working people been reduced to being society’s losers, while speculators have become heroes?

帽菇凉: Many of my relatives and friends are out of work, and the income from my small shop has also decreased. It’s really tough to make a living this year.

MrDou: I’m 27. Everyone wants me to get married, have kids, and support a family, but no one wants me to be happy …

超级杂兵: Hello, Dr. Li. Nowadays, there’s even less freedom of speech than before.

千屿寻荒_: I got a call from the head of the hospital today, saying that one of my former students had been exposed to HIV in the course of his work, and had to take post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). They asked me to go talk to him, because he’d locked himself in the on-call room and was in there crying, and wouldn’t let anyone in. When I got there, he finally opened the door, and before I could say anything, he hugged me, crying. I didn’t know what to say.

小玩子小玩子小玩子: Dr. Li, my son drew your portrait as part of a competition. Take a look and see if you like it:

Two black-and-white portraits of Dr. Li Wenliang, hand-drawn in pencil, depict the young doctor with kind eyes, rectangular eyeglasses, an N-95 mask, and a white lab coat.

晴岚岚岚_:  Stranger, if things have got you down and you’re feeling depressed, I’m right here to give you a shout of encouragement!

盖内: Dr. Li, it’s been 74 days since we lost my grandfather. Last year, he beat lung cancer. We celebrated his 80th birthday in the fall, but he passed away from COVID in the winter. I still can’t believe he’s gone. When he died, he took a part of me with him.

小米粒儿XSY: Every day, I play at being an emotionally stable adult.

LauK1t: Yesterday I tried to ask a friend if she knew about Dr. Li Wenliang and China’s “Wailing Wall,” but she said she didn’t even know who Li Wenliang was. There wasn’t any point in asking the second question. I feel really sad that she’s living in this false reality that others have created for her. [Chinese]

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


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