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COVID-19 diaries from Wuhan: ‘Our action has brought us hope’

People like to enjoy the sun during the lockdown. (Photo credit: Guo Jing)

The following post is the fifth in a series of diaries written by independent filmmaker and feminist scholar Ai Xiaoming and feminist activist Guo Jing. Both are living in Wuhan at the center of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are the links to the first, second, third, and fourth part of the series.

Check out Global Voices’ special coverage of the global impact of COVID-19.

This fifth installment was written between February 17-19, 2020. The original Chinese diaries are published on Matter News.

Guo Jing: February 17, 2020


Our residential district is very small, and we only have a little public space where we can enjoy sunlight. I can only walk back and forth in a 50-meter space between two buildings …We are all under home surveillance. Usually only suspected criminals are put under home surveillance, but now many people are ‘enjoying’ this special treatment.

I have a friend living in a town in Hubei Province. She told me they are living under martial law, and no one is allowed step out of their homes. Her relatives sent her a video, showing someone was taken away by the authorities when they went outside to hang their clothes.

Someone said that Evergrande Real Estate announced a huge discount from February 18 to February 29. They will give a 75% discount on their properties all across the country. This is a huge discount, but still not affordable. Now all highways are free of charge, but how many people can still get on the highway right now?
The wealthy ones can increase their fortune by buying houses, but an average person can only buy rice for their survival. Some ‘discounts’ will never be enjoyed by the average person.

People started to initiate group buying for vegetables and meat on online chat rooms. Delivery service is only available for bulk order. I joined a community group yesterday and people would invite each other to place group orders. At first I resisted. I was used to doing online shopping for food before the lockdown, but now I am eager to go out to buy food by myself. But today, I finally joined the group.

Guo Jing: February 18, 2020


These days, I felt like being stabbed on my back while walking in a swamp. Locking down an entier city is very bad, but now we are trapped in our residential districts and can only go out once every three days. I do not have any rights to oppose these measures. Whether these measures are necessary or not is no longer an important question. As long as the pandemic will end, these measures are considered good.

We are forced to be become a collective; the individual has disappeared.
Group buying can only take care of our general needs, and it cannot serve individual special needs. Someone initiated a group buying of vegetables, we can only choose between Plan A and Plan B. In Plan A costs RMB 50 yuan (US$ 8 dollars) and it is consists of five kinds of vegetables that weight 13 catties (6.5 Kg): winter melons, celeries, white cabbage, chrysanthemum greens, and potatoes. Plan B costs RMB 88 yuan (US$ 14 dollars) and it is consists of six kinds of vegetables that weight 13 catties: peas, corns, carrots, sweet potatoes, eggplants, and green peppers.
We cannot consider individual needs with these mandatory plans. I do not want white cabbage in Plan A, and I do not like peas in Plan B. Although it looks like we have two choices, in fact we do not have our own choice.
I need to choose what other people choose in group buying. I cannot find sauce in these plans. I love spicy food. Fortunately I have stored several bottles of spicy sauce, or I will lose all the joy in eating. Besides food, we have other needs. Maybe some people run out of toothpaste. Maybe some people need to buy toilet paper.
We talked about the news that female nurses from Gansu were shaving their heads. The only man in that group photo still had his short hair. Many female nurses were very reluctant when their hair was shaved off, and some of them cried. Chinese people see hair as more than appearances, it is about our dignity. Is it necessary to shave their heads? Did they have the consent from those women? Women’s bodies never really belong to us. It is always someone else overpowering women and making decisions about what to do to women’s bodies.

While it is no sure if the female medical workers were willing to shave their hair, the incident had resulted in an online uproar with many accusing the state owned media outlets of using women as tools for propaganda.

Female workers from Gansu had to perform their “sacrifice” in the fight against COVID-19 by shaving their heads. Screen capture from a video from Radio Free Asia's Facebook.

Ai Xiaoming: February 18, 2020

這天的工作是接收來自北京的一車物質: 女性衛生用品。 根據一周前報道,截至2月 11 日,武漢有超過 9 萬的醫護人員奮戰 在疫情防控一線,至 2 月 14 日,來自全國的醫療界支援醫護已近 2 萬。在這些醫生中,女性占多少比例我沒有統計,但是護士中百分之九十以上是女性。
即使在發出呼籲後有了社會捐助,還有運送和接收困難,一方面,有院方男性負責人不認為這是迫切需要。另一方面,女性衛生用品不算醫療物質,不能享受綠色通道。但在相關報道發出後, 「姐妹戰疫安心行動」在微公益平台和為愛聯合勸募平台(微信)開啟公募連接, 一天內籌得善款兩百三十多萬。此後全國婦聯所屬中國婦女發展基金會這一國家級公益組織也募集了 225 萬元,用於援助一線女性醫務人員物品。
司機來自山東,他說昨天晚上 6 點從北京出發,夜裏在邢台休息。今天一大早連續趕路,開了十多個小時到達武漢。也是本地志願者為他聯系並發去本地區防疫指揮部的通行證,他才得以進入武漢市內。

At 6 PM, the sky was grey as if masked. After 7 PM, my community was still under the strictest controls, neither human nor car were allowed to go out. But we were allowed out becaus of a pass from COVID-19 Command Center.

Our work today is to receive a truck of supplies from Beijing: feminine hygiene products. According to a report last week, there were more than 90,000 medical personnel working at the frontline in Wuhan on February 11. On February 14, the number of medical personnel coming from other parts of the countries to Wuhan exceeded 20,000. I do not have the statistics showing what percentage of the healthcare workers are female. However, I know more than 90% of the nurses are female.

There are some reasons for their lack of feminine hygiene products: first, the medical staff from Wuhan were called to work with short notice, and they have been working in isolation without much support; second, most stores were closed after the lockdown, and there is no place to buy things; third, the medical staff from outside Wuhan did not bring sufficient items with them when they were called to help.

Although we have received a lot of donations after we made a public call for help, we still have issues with transportation and delivery. On the one hand, some male directors of the hospitals do not think this is a serious need. On the other hand, feminine hygiene products are not medical supplies, and we cannot deliver them directly to the medical institutes.

However, as reports about female medical workers’ needs emerged, an online crowdfunding campaign “Action to support our sisters fighting the pandemic” was launched on WeChat and collected more than 2,300,000 Chinese Yuan in one day. After that, China Women's Development Foundation, a national charity organization belonging to All-China Women's Federation, also raised 2,250,000 Yuan for buying products for those female medical staff on the frontline.

Our truck driver is from Shandong. He said he departed at 6 PM yesterday from Beijing and took some rest in Xingtai last night. He had driven for more than 10 hours since this morning before he arrived Wuhan. He could enter Wuhan because Wuhan volunteers had asked the local COVID-19 Command Center to issue a pass for him.
After the driver unloaded the packages, he departed again. He told me he only had one meal today. I asked him what he can eat so late at night without any stores or restaurants open? He told me he has some instant noodles in his truck.

Donated supplies were stacked outside the hospital. (Photo credit: Ai Xiaoming)

Ai Xiaoming: February 18, 2020


This morning I went to a construction site to meet my friends, and then we delivered packages to different hospitals. Mr. Yuan called the hospital. He got the information that we should deliver the packages to the Nanjin Road campus of Wuhan Central Hospital, so we headed there.We drove through some old streets along the river. After a while, we arrived at the front door of the administration building of Wuhan Central Hospital.

Even from far away, I could see a lot of packages stacked on the road. I checked those packages out. They are mainly donated supplies from other places. These donated supplies were transported from thousands of miles away, and they represent the love among us all. We could imagine how many people skipped sleep to forward messages, donate money, buy these supplies, find the trucks and cars, find volunteers, and contact people in charge of different things. After numerous volunteers worked together, we could see these supplies in front of the hospital.

Guo Jing: February 19, 2020


Although we are caught in a passive situation, we try to be proactive. I saw an interview the other day, a doctor working at the frontline said, “I always want to do more.” This is moving. Both the medical staff and the volunteers share the same thought.

In the pandemic, patients and suspected patients with COVID-19 are seeking help online. Some volunteers would collect related information and reach out to those in need. Some doctors volunteer to read the CT images and give advice. Some connect the patients to hospitals and community workers. Some reach out to people with chronic diseases. Some take care of meal services for the medical staff. Some pay attention to female medical workers’ needs. Some care about the working conditions for cleaners. Some help arrange cars for volunteers.

Although the lockdown brings difficulties to their volunteering work, they did not give up easily. Though donated resources and supplies had been blocked by the (Chinese) Red Cross Society, they will find another way. No matter what, they will do their best. Hope is not our driving force. But our action has brought us hope.

Check out Global Voices’ special coverage of the Global Impact of COVID-19.

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