COVID-19 diaries from Wuhan: A fake performance

A cat at home. Photo credit: Ai Xiaoming.

The following post is the ninth in a series of diaries written by independent filmmaker and feminist scholar Ai Xiaoming and by 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, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and the eighth parts of the series.

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

This installment was written between March 6 and March 8, 2020. The original Chinese diaries are published on Matter News.

Guo Jing: March 6, 2020

The residents yelled ‘fake, fake’ when officials visited a community. (This photo is taken from a Youtube video.)


Many measures have been presented to safeguard people's livelihood, but whether they can be implemented is another issue. Yesterday, when the COVID-19 supervision team from the central government visited the Cuiyuan Community in Qingshan district in Wuhan, local residents were angry that community workers had disguised themselves as volunteers delivering meat and vegetables to the district that is now under lockdown. They yelled out from their windows “Fake, Fake, it is all but a formal [performance]”. This is not the first time the people in Wuhan express their resentment.

Guo Jing: March 7, 2020


Two days ago, some people in Wuhan yelled ‘fake’ in front of a formal [performance of so-called aid delivery to the people]. Yesterday, the Communist Party Secretary of Wuhan, Wang Zhonglin, proposed to educate the citizens of Wuhan to have them thank the Chinese Communist Party. His proposal seemed to come as a reaction after some citizens recently expressed their resentment [towards the government].
I think this is the first time in history that a one-party state asks its people to thank the party at a time of a disaster.
Of course there are people we should thank, like members of the medical staff, cleaners, cashiers in supermarkets, community workers, and volunteers. They are helping the patients and supporting our basic needs.
People who help others rarely expect others to thank them. Who on earth needs thanks from people in Wuhan? We never hesitate to thank those who help us.
Someone sent a link that allows you find the number of infected cases in your surrounding, based on your address. In other cities, people have already been able to search for this kind of information. Finally we can do it in Wuhan today. I tried this website today. There were 75 confirmed cases within one km of where I live this morning. It turned 78 in afternoon.

Guo Jing: March 8, 2020


March 8 is a holiday celebrating women’s rights. On that day, women’s rights activists from around the world come together and speak up. But now, COVID-19 has spread to the whole world, and public gatherings of women’s rights activists are affected too. In Italy, women’s rights activists have turned their strike into cloud meetings.
The pandemic is not the only factor that stops us from speaking out. On March 9th, 2018, the account of Feminist Voices in Weibo and Weixin was taken down. Feminist Voices was the most influential platform for women’s rights advocacy in China, yet its account was shutdown after Women’s Day. Some women’s rights activists are still seeking to have the Feminist Voices’ account brought back.
Many netizens have taken part in advocacy activities against domestic violence today. Some went out and pasted a joint-statement against domestic violence in their community.
People have been searching for light and for connections in the dark times of the lockdown. The desire to bring changes never disappears. Our hope can carry a tremendous amount of energy, and can explode at any time.
Yesterday, I tried to post my diary on Weibo and WeChat several times. The post either failed to be uploaded, or was deleted soon upon published. I was frustrated. I thought, perhaps my diary is not that important, so I thought about giving up. However, some people sent me private messages asking me why they did not see my diary yesterday. Some left messages below the link of the deleted diary, saying that they could not see it. There are people reading my diaries, so I must try my best to speak out.
Last night I dreamed about hiking. But suddenly, I was back in junior high school, and had to attend classes. I could not skip the classes to go hiking. I was trapped in the school.

Ai Xiaoming: March 8, 2020

盡管我也沒有病,但是每天我的寫作都被各種疫情信息所困。結果,坐在書桌前, 注意力像新型冠狀病毒一樣從桌面升騰而起,在東南西北前後左右上天入地,開成了各種冠狀蒲公英。最後呢?最後就找不到北了;進入午夜自責時分。然後我就帶著滿腦子的蒲公英入睡,夢見了眾多孤魂野鬼,血腥呻吟……
每天我都有惡火攻心之感,不是急火, 我這歲數,根本不急——用武漢話來說,急揍麼事撒,趕殺場?所謂惡火,主要是這世界,突然就滿地呈現出冠狀病毒那種開枝散葉、無以言表的惡之無名火。隨便舉幾個例子:
一位群友告,她的中學同學,夫妻倆都危重住院。媒體裏曾經報道過這一段,他們想在一間病房,以便互相照顧,醫生沒能同意。 就這樣,一墻之隔便是陰陽兩界。他多麼想知道,妻子曾在手機上留下什麼話?可是, 殯儀館把手機甩了!他目前雖說是情況稍穩定,肺部也受到嚴重損傷。試想,當他歷此一難回到家裏,暖窩已變空巢,情何以堪!

Although I was not infected, I have been trapped by pandemic news. Whenever I sit in front of my desk, all I can think about is the novel coronavirus. News about the virus come from all directions – east, south, west, north, front, back, up, and down – and bloom like dandelions. Eventually, I have lost all sense of direction. Around midnight, I blamed myself [for my failure to focus on something] and fell asleep with dandelions in my brain. I dreamed about ghosts, blood and moaning…
Everyday, I feel as if my heart is on fire. It is not a hasty feeling. At my age, I don't feel the need to act fast – As we say in Wuhan, what's the point of being so hasty? Going to the battlefield? The fire in my heart comes from the sudden spread of this weed-like coronavirus, the feeling of how it burns me cannot be described with words. I can tell a few stories though,
A friend of mine told me that one of her classmates in high school and his wife were admitted to a hospital after they became very ill. The media covered that part of the story. They wanted to be in the same room, so they could take care of each other. The doctor did not agree. In the end, death and life separated them. He wanted to know what message his wife had left in her cellphone for him, but the funeral home threw her cellphone away! His condition is stable now, but his lung is seriously damaged. Try to think about that: how can he bear the scene of his home when he returns after the disaster, and finds out that his once sweet home has turned into an empty house!
Another friend told me that there will be a lot of bills to pay for medical expense and cremation later on. A family member of a diseased patient told me that the hospital and cremation place had called saying that the family had to pay 6 to 70,000 yuan (between USD 8,472 and 9885) for the 4-day medical expense, as the patient's status regarding the virus had not yet been confirmed by the time he died. Three members of the family had passed away within a little more than 20 days. How miserable!

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