Even though the suffering of Wuhan has ended and China lifted the months-long lockdown in the country, the fear has not ended yet as many experts worry that a second wave could hit China due to surge in imported cases. But when the country, especially the initial epicentre Wuhan was reporting one after another infection and deaths a few months ago, an author has kept a note of the life and death in her hometown.
The online diary of the Wuhan author became a source of information for millions of Chinese readers where the writer explained the unrevealed scenes of the residents of her hometown, as well as their fears and frustration during the 11-week lockdown.
The Wuhan writer and the online diary
The author from Wuhan, known by her pen name Fang Fang rather than her actual name Wang Fang said that she did not have the intention to be judged as a cheerleader for the Chinese government, or as a reflexively embittered critic.
She witnessed how bravely doctors in Wuhan, the street cleaners and neighbors helped others while vowing to hold to account Wuhan officials who let the Coronavirus spread. As reported by the New York Times, in an interview Fang said:
"If authors have any responsibilities in the face of disaster, the greatest of them is to bear witness. I've always cared about how the weak survive great upheavals. The individuals who are left out — they've always been my chief concern."
Fang who moved to Wuhan from Nanjing at a very early age started publishing her personal journal from January 25. Here are some translated versions from her online diary:
Fang wrote that Wuhan was still in a critical condition. Even though local residents have passed their initial terror, helplessness, anxiety and stress, still they need to be comforted and cheered by everyone. She said her initial idea had been to start from December 31, recounting her journey from feeling alarmed to breathing easier. But that would have taken too long to write, "so I'll stick to putting down my latest impressions in real-time, slowly compiling a diary of a closed city," she wrote.
She added that "there was more bad news. My daughter told me yesterday that a friend's father, who already had liver cancer, came down with a suspected case of infection and was taken to hospital. But nobody was on hand to save him and he died in three hours. That happened two or three days ago. Over the phone, she sounded very broken up."
When the infection cases crossed 3,000 in Wuhan and 192 people lost their lives while battling COVID-19 in the region Fang wrote: "Now driving down the chilly, deserted streets, those vibrant, flashing lights feel kind of comforting." She noticed some small vegetable shops are open and she asked some sellers whether they were worried about becoming infected by staying open at that time.
"Their answer was matter-of-fact — we have to get through this, and so do you. True, they have to go on living and so do we, that's the way it is," she wrote and added, "On nearly every deserted, rain-swept street, a cleaning worker still meticulously swept away. Seeing them, I felt ashamed about feeling so tense, and all of a sudden, I would calm down."
Fang mentioned that the virus-affected people are also behaving like enemies to each other. She wrote in her diary: "It's being said that many people are only now waking up, startled to grasp that it's meaningless to yell empty slogans day in and day out about how amazing our country is, to grasp the total ineptitude of those officials who spend their days in political study and bloviating, and can't get a real job done."
She added that even though the country had faced the 2003 SARS outbreak, people forgot the epidemic and "Now add to that the year 2020. Will we also forget it? The devil is always on our trail, and if we're not on our guard, he'll add another date until we wake up in torment. The question is: Do we want to wake up?"
By this time, Wuhan reported 545 deaths which also include the Coronavirus whistleblower Dr Li Wenliang. Citing the death of the Wuhan doctor who was silenced by Wuhan authorities and asked not to spread rumors about the outbreak, Fang wrote, "I'm distraught. As soon it happened, my circle of friends said that night all of Wuhan was weeping for him. Who could have guessed that people across the whole of China were weeping for him!"
Fang mentioned, "Tonight people in Wuhan want to turn their lights off at the moment when Li Wenliang died a night before and shine a ray of light into the sky using flashlights or cellphones while making a whistling noise. Li Wenliang was himself this ray of light in the heavy, dark night."
By this time Wuhan has reported over 2,000 deaths and more than 50,000 infection cases, while the Chinese government announced that Wuhan would end a nearly two-month lockdown in coming weeks and the epicentre has shifted to Europe. The blame game between China and the US also started by this time and conspiracy theories also began emerging on online platforms. On this day Fang wrote:
Today will be the last entry, but that doesn't mean I'll stop writing. My Weibo will remain my platform, and I'll give my views there just as before. Nor will I give up pressing for accountability. Many people have left messages saying that no officials will be held accountable, that there's no hope in sight for that.
As for whether they will ultimately be held responsible, I don't know. But no matter what officials might think, as Wuhan residents locked in our homes for more than two months, as witnesses to the tragic times of this city, we have a responsibility and duty to seek justice for those who died wrongfully.
If anyone imagines that I'll lightly set aside my pen, that will never happen. One word after another, I will inscribe them onto history's pillar of infamy.