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COVID-19 diaries from Wuhan: Chinese netizens’ tribute to whistleblower Dr. Ai Fen

Categories: East Asia, China, Censorship, Disaster, Freedom of Speech, Health, COVID-19

Dogs strolling in the yard. (Photo credit: Guo Jing. Used with permission.)

The following post is the tenth in a series of diaries written by independent filmmaker and feminist scholar Ai Xiaoming  [1]and feminist activist Guo Jing. [2]Both are living in Wuhan at the center of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are the links to the first [3], second, [4] third [5], fourth [6], fifth [7], sixth [8], seventh [9], eighth [10] and ninth [11] part of the series.

Check out Global Voices’ special coverage of the global impact of COVID-19 [12].

This installment was written between March 9 and March 10, 2020. The original Chinese diaries are published on Matter News.

Guo Jing: March 9, 2020 [13]

昨天接到一个热线的咨询,求助者在北京做教育培训的工作,过年回老家后因为疫情各地都实施了交通管制。2月7日,公司要求大家复工,她就没能回到北京。她有电脑,也可以在家线上办公,但公司部门经理认为她不具备办公条件,没有给她安排工作,而是按照请假处理。
3月6日,部门经理跟她讲:“要么回北京工作,要么离职。”她3月7日就回了北京,结果第二天公司又要求她申请离职。公司其他人暂时没有遇到跟她类似的情况。
有个在旅游行业工作的朋友最近工作也受到了疫情的影响。她的公司1月的工资都没有发,据说要到5、6月再发,2月就没有工资。公司还准备遣散员工,说等疫情过去再召员工回去。
疫情期间,全国一度都处于封锁的状态,湖北之外也有很多员工无法及时回到上班的城市,企业也因为停工而没有盈利。
有住户发了一个图到群里,图里是几种菜拼成的小人,有土豆、胡萝卜、白萝卜、青椒、包菜等,图上写着“解封之后,再也不想吃这几种菜了”。看来任何方面的单调和重复都容易让人厌倦。
我想起曾跟朋友讨论过一个问题“如果以后只能选择吃一种食物,要吃什么”。备受欢迎的是土豆和豆子。我选择的是土豆,土豆容易饱腹,可以有很多做法,也好吃。封城后,我存了一些土豆,不过一直都还有青菜吃,就还没有开始吃土豆。

Yesterday I received a call from the hotline. The call came from an education worker in Beijing who returned home during the Chinese New Year and was restricted by pandemic traffic controls. Her company asked her to resume work on February 7, but she could not make it to Beijing. She has a computer and can work from home. However, the department manager did not approve of remote work and did not assign her work. The days are counted as unpaid leave.

On March 6, the department manager told her, “You either come back to Beijing and work or you quit.” She went back Beijing on March 7, but her company asked her to resign the day after. No other staff member in her company is facing a similar situation.

Recently, a friend who works in the tourism industry has also been affected by the pandemic. Her company did not pay her salary this January and February. The word is that the company will only release salaries in May or June and has plans to cut staff. They will call them back to work after the pandemic ends.

During the pandemic, the whole country was locked down completely. Outside Hubei, many employees also failed to return to the cities where they have jobs. Many businesses could not make any profit due to the market shutdown.

A resident from our district sent a photo to our group. The photo shows a doll composed of vegetables including potatoes, carrots, white turnips, peppers, and cabbages. The message on the photo says, “I don't want to eat these vegetables anymore when the lockdown is over.” People are tired of their repetitive daily routines.

One time I brought up a question to my friends, “If you had to choose only one kind of food for the rest of our lives, what would you choose?” Potatoes and beans turned out to be most popular choice. I chose potatoes. Potatoes can fill up your stomach, they are delicious and can be cooked in different styles. I stored some potatoes, but I have not eaten them yet as green vegetables are still available.

Ai Xiaoming: March 10, 2020 [13]

这里,就要说到湖北浠水县洗马镇代收“火神山”医院参建人员隔离费的问题。这个事件由工人晒出镇里的代收单据而起,两天内引起诸多媒体报道,形成一个舆论热点。它也把疫情发生以来一直潜伏着的、令被隔离人员耿耿于怀的隔离费用问题引入了公共讨论。
洗马镇收隔离费这件事,从数额上说起来,真不算多。
先说工资:两位工人参建火神山医院,他们的工资分别是按每日800元和1200元发放,这已经领取到手。
当隔离结束时,镇政府要求工人支付隔离期间酒店住宿和餐饮费用,每人每天150元。那么,隔离14天,每人应交2100元,两人共交4200元。
在迫不得已支付隔离费时,工人这边支付方留下了一句尖锐的批评:非法收取隔离费。
从镇政府的角度来说,他们并未另出新规。收取这笔费用,依据是浠水县政府的通告:“隔离期间所有费用全部自理”
由于舆论高压,结果是洗马镇负责隔离点的副镇长被免职处理。代收费用已于37日退还。
从镇政府的角度来说,他们并未另出新规。收取这笔费用,依据是浠水县政府的通告:“隔离期间所有费用全部自理”
由于舆论高压,结果是洗马镇负责隔离点的副镇长被免职处理。代收费用已于37日退还。
现在要说的就是,两位工人各自得回了自己的2100元钱。可是,在这场疫情中那么多被隔离、被强制遣返的人,他们额外支付的隔离、遣返成本怎么算?
我想特别强调的是,洗马镇的收费退费事件实际上包含了各地政府从现在到疫情后续必须处理的重大问题,那就是因参与防疫而增加的隔离成本。它究竟应该由个人承担,还是由政府买单?
举例来说,外地来汉支援抗疫的医护人员,回去家乡城市时,按理也要隔离。那么,他们隔离期间的食宿费用,是从个人收入中扣除,还是由国家支付?
对待抗疫人员以及需要隔离的所有人员,都应该免费,以保障隔离效果。并且,应该立即明令禁止,各省市地区以及居民小区巧设名目,以抗疫为名,驱逐从疫区返城返乡人员或者实施惩罚性隔离收费;使他们流离失所,尤其是加重低收入人群负担,令其生活难以维持。

I want to talk about the town government in Ximazhen in Xishui County, Hubei Province billing workers who helped build the field hospital [Huoshenshan Hosptal] for their quarantine stay.

This story started after two workers posted their bills on the internet. After being reported in local media outlets, the issue got a lot of attention over the next two days. It also opened up a public debate about the issue of quarantine fees — a bitter issue for many who have been quarantined.

The amount charged by the Ximazhen town government is not really that expensive.

Let us take a look at their salary first. The daily salary of the two field hospital construction workers was RMB 800 and 1200 yuan respectively (approximately US$ 113 to 170 dollars). After they finished work and the quarantine period, the local government asked them to pay for their accommodation and food during their quarantine. It came to RMB150 yuan (US$ 21 dollars) per day. They were asked to pay RMB 2100 Yuan (US$ 296) for the 14 days of quarantine. Together they paid a total of RMB 4200 Yuan (US$ 593 dollars).

When these workers were forced to pay for their quarantine, they left harsh remarks [for the authorities]: The quarantine bill is illegal.

From the perspective of the town government, they were just following the rules. They charged these people based on the county government's official notice that people should pay for their quarantine. However, in response to the public outrage, the Deputy Mayor of Ximazhen, who was responsible for managing quarantine, was removed from his position. The quarantine fee was returned back to the two workers on March 7.

What I want to say is this — while the two workers got their RMB 2100 yuan back, what about the bills paid by others who were forced to be quarantined or repatriated?

What I want to stress is – now that Ximazhen has returned the quarantine fee, which is the cost of pandemic control. The question follows is whether this pandemic control cost be paid by the quarantined individuals or by the government?
[Note: Currently, individuals are required to pay for their quarantined fee.]

Many medical staff members have come to Wuhan to help and they will be quarantined when they return home. Who should pay for their accommodation and food during quarantine? Should they pay or should the government?

I think those who help fight the pandemic and those who were quarantined should not be charged so that people are willing to be compliant with quarantine measures. In addition, local governments should be prohibited from expelling people who return from the epidemic areas or charge them extra fees for their quarantine. Such punitive measures would force many, in particular the poor, into homelessness. They won't be able sustain themselves.

Guo Jing: March 10, 2020 [14]

发口肖子的人ai·芬医生也站了出来,她是把写着“SARS冠状病毒”的报告拍下来发给同学的人。今天人物发了对ai·芬的采访文章,看到的时候我就觉得文章可能会被删,就截了个图。
一开始,最先发布在人物上的文章被删,接着大家开始转发别的媒体转载的文章,很快转载的文章也都被删,就有人把文章做成PDF,供大家在微信里收藏后分享。一整天,朋友圈都被“发哨子的人”这篇文章刷屏。
这种集体默契的反抗不是第一次,也不会是最后一次。大家都知道有时候讲真话是不被允许的,是会受到惩罚的,可是依然有人勇于讲真话,人们也十分珍视讲真话的人,想尽办法传播真话。希望有一天人们不再为讲真话付出代价
今天阳光灿烂,好像昨天的阴冷一下子就变得有点久远了。小区的院子里又恢复了些许生机。
周先生也下楼遛狗,他的狗叫胖丁…我们又聊到了疫情,周先生说他有几个朋友出去旅游,现在想回却回不来,在外面一天要花掉八九百块的住宿费。他有两个朋友因为感染费盐去世的,一个四十多岁、一个八十多岁,现在都拿不到骨灰。
周先生说:“太突然了,他们得病一两周就死了,比得了癌症死得还快。”他还有个朋友的爸爸是疫情期间因为脑梗去世的,也见不到尸体。

Dr. Ai Fen [15], the COVID-19 whistleblower, has come forward. She is the person who took a photo of the “SARS coronavirus” test results and sent it to her former classmates. Today when I read Dr. Ai Fen's interview in People Magazine online, I took a screenshot of the the post because I anticipated that it would be deleted later.

After the original article was deleted, people started to share the same article after it was republished in other media outlets. But the republished posts were deleted too. Then people made PDF files of the article, so we can save it on WeChat and share it with friends. This article “The Whistle Distributor” has circulated in my social circle throughout the day.

This is not the first time, and won't be the last time, that we will see this kind of synchronized resistance. We all know that we are not allowed to speak the truth or we will be punished. However, there are still people who are brave enough to speak up, and we value these people and try our best to spread their messages. I hope one day we will not need pay for the price for speaking the truth.

It was a sunny today. The chill from yesterday is gone. Residents went out into the yard.
Mr. Chou also walked his dog downstairs. His dog is called Panding. We talked about the pandemic again. Mr. Chou said some of his friends had traveled out of Wuhan but they could not come back now even if they wanted to. They need to pay RMB 800-900 yuan (US $113 to 127 dollars) for accommodation everyday. Two of his friends passed away after they were infected. One was in thier 40s, and the other was in thier 80s. Their relatives have not gotten their ashes yet.

Mr. Chou said, “It happened too fast. They died just two weeks after they were infected. The process is much faster than cancer.” During the pandemic, one of his friends lost his father to a stroke and he couldn't even say goodbye.