COVID-19 diaries from Wuhan: Surrounded by walls of glass

A cleaner wears torn protective gear. Photo credit: Guo Jing. Used with permission.

The following post is the eleventh 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 initial center of the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are the links to the first, second,third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth and tenth part of the series.

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

This installment was written between March 11 and March 14, 2020. The original Chinese diaries are published on Matter News.

Guo Jing: March 11, 2020


People keep sharing the article “The whistleblower” today, and we have it in different languages: English, Japanese, Vietnamese, braille, oracle bone script, Hexadecimal code, Morse code, and blank verison with no word… This is a collective work of art in the lockdown, like a world wonder. People are not only forwarding the article itself, but their emotions — their anger towards censorship, their respect towards the whistleblowers, and their insistence on speaking out.

[Editors Note: “The whistleblower” is an interview with Dr. Ai Fen who was the first person to distribute the lab report on the novel coronavirus. The article was quickly taken offline by government web censors and people started distributing the posts in different language versions to circumvent the censors.]

Ai Xiaoming: March 11, 2020


My diary about the Wuhan lockdown is not that lucky. Two of them were deleted one after another. I have submitted more than 10 articles using my Wechat public account, but half of them have failed to publish. I have opened three blogs, and all of them have been taken offline. Some of my articles did not even survive one night. I don't expect them to get a lot of attention, but what's the point of spending day after day writing and uploading articles that won't even survive online?

I have a small balcony at home. I usually keep the glass door between the balcony and the living room open. One day, I was not aware that door was closed and bumped onto it. The result? I stumbled five steps back, held my head and moaned.

This is how I feel every day when I struggle with my Wechat public account. Even if you are courageous you are surrounded by walls made of glass. You try smashing through them, but they are always there.

Guo Jing: March 13, 2020

People picked up delivered food at the gate. (Photo credit: Guo Jing. Used with permission.)


Before the lockdown, I would sometimes go camping or hiking. I enjoyed being surrounded by birds, flowers and nature. But now when I hear birds singing in the morning, I am not in the mood to enjoy it  anymore. Yesterday someone initiated group buying from Kentuckey Fried Chicken. It was tempting. However, I still have some vegetables at home. It would be a pity if they were to rot so I decided to eat the vegetables first.

Guo Jing: March 14, 2020


My friend added me to an online group where people share the most up-to-date traffic information and their experience of “leaving” Hubei Province. Aside from Wuhan, some cities and counties in Hubei Province hae started to loosed their control. Many people cannot wait to leave, because they want to return to work or to reunite with their families and friends. Some people just want to leave. Of course, there are people planning to come back to Hubei Province, too. However, many train stations do not sell tickets coming into the Hubei area.

If we want to leave, we need to have a pass and a health certificate. However, every city, county and village has their own set of rules regarding people's mobility. Some pass holders are only allowed to move inside the city. Some pass holders can take the intercity buses. Some pass holders are allowed to drive their cars on the highways to leave the province.

Even if we leave Hubei Province, whether we can enter another province or city is still in question. People need to obtain a certificate issued by a business unit or a residential district to enter a province or city. Some provinces do not recognize the green code (healthy code) on Alipay. Some people can drive on the highways, but they are not allowed to leave the highways when they arrive at their destinations. Several people in the group have had this kind of experience when they went to Jiangxi, Sichuan, and Chongqing. They are forced to drive back.

Some places allow people to enter, but they needed to be quarantined for 14 days. Wenzhou, Taizhou, and Guangzhou request centralized quarantine, and people need to pay a RMB 300 yuan (US$ 42.5 dollars) quarantine fee per day. Dongguan and Hangzhou also request centralized quarantine for 14 days, but their governments pay for the quarantine.
If there is no standardized policy, it is difficult to plan ahead for travel. People have pay for the cost of trial and error.

Last night when I went to bed, at around 12, there was some noise in the hallway. I had difficulty falling asleep because of the noise. This morning at around 7, I woke up to the sounds of doors opening in the hallway. Before the lockdown, the metro station near my community was being renovated. The construction was very noisy at night, but I was not affected. Now my sensory organs are hyperactive in search for external information, and it is difficult to turn them off.

A friend in Shanghai told me that she always hears the sounds of ambulances after someone in her area turns out to be COVID-19 positive.

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