Wuhan Diary #12: The Sixteenth Day of the Wuhan City Closure — February 7, 2020

Graphic by 巴丢草 Badiucao

February 7, the Sixteenth Day of the Wuhan City Closure

These days since Wuhan closed I have, as my parents asked, turned off the lights and gone to be at midnight. Yesterday evening was the only time I didn’t do it.

I have cried twice since the Wuhan epidemic began. The first time was two days before the Wuhan was closed. That was when I heard that one of the eight physicians punished for “spreading rumors” had already been infected and was in the intensive care unit because “his lungs are all white”. I didn’t know that physician’s name then. I didn’t even know if were the only one. I cried that time. I cried again yesterday evening because he has left us.

During these times, I never cried no matter how afraid or how worried I was because when I knew that crying wasn’t going to help me solve my problems. Only by looking at things calmly could I hope to solve them.

But Dr. Li Wenliang is different. When I cry for him I am crying for myself as well.

Dr. Li Wenliang was no hero. What I mean to say is, he did everything he did without any thought of becoming a hero. He sent out the news on his classmates’ chat group with the idea that he should warn his classmates and friends to be cautious. He had no intention of openly provoking the authorities or of blaming them. In both his method and his objective, he was different from Dr. Gao Yaojie who exposed the HIV/AIDS epidemic and Dr. Jiang Yanyong who exposed the SARS epidemic. What Dr. Li Wenliang did was something any decent ordinary person might do. Even by the nitpicking standards of the Weibo microblogs about the definition of a “victim”, he can be called a “model victim”.

Like many of us, Dr. Li was good-hearted and didn’t want to harm anyone. I looked at his Weibo microblog. Nearly all of it records bits and pieces of ordinary life. He liked fried chicken, tangerines, he liked to laugh at himself for not being able to afford to eat cherries, and he liked to watch the Chinese historical TV drama Joy of Life (庆余年) . He was just like many other common people who live inside the Red Firewall who just want to “pass their lives” in peace” in an ordinary way. People like that generally have no plan and no intention to defy the authorities. Yet even that kind of person died and died as a result of official intrigue.

That such a good, ordinary person had to suffer such a fate can’t but bring tears to your eyes.

Dr. Li Wenliang had no “ambition” or expectation that he would “stand firm no matter how overwhelming the forces arrayed against him”. I fear that he never imagined he would have to pay the price for being a hero. Nonetheless he came to a very cruel end.

Even more infuriating is that even after he passed away, he was still being used in articles written to “guide public opinion”.

I saw the news a little after 10 PM. During the hour that followed I checked several different sources including Webchat circles of friends and various media to finally conclude that this news was true. What upset me was the sudden deluge of reports that “he isn’t dead, they are still trying to revive him”. I didn’t know whether to be skeptical or to be relieved. However, when at the same time there appeared massive coverage of “media-made rumors” and “waiting for an official announcement” I realized what was up. This was a triple play intended to at once to allay intense public emotion at his death, to distract them by bringing up another topic, and to discredit the media.

No matter whether Dr. Li Wenliang died at 9:30 PM or at 2:58 AM, the last five-and-a-half hours of his life he was used by others just like a common tool.

I cried for him and for myself. I always that I was living “a life” but all I was really doing was “merely existing”.

Many people are suggesting that Dr. Li Wenliang be given the posthumous title of “martyr”, that monuments should be built to honor him, and that he should be honored in a memorial service once the epidemic is over. I know very well that none of this will ever happen. Remembrance of Dr. Li Wenliang symbolize a great storm of public anger (perhaps people living within the Great Firewall themselves don’t realize this). Therefore the Chinese Communist Party cannot possibly permit anything that could rally public anger against them. According to the normal logic of the Communist Party Propaganda Department, they will in the future invent a new “official” account of a new “Dr. Zhong Nanshan” [Note: discoverer of SARS who refuted official efforts downplay the seriousness of the SARS epidemic.] in order to calm the public sentiment, divert attention from and reduce public interest in the story of Dr. Li Wenliang.

I have no idea who the object of their myth-making will be. I do expect however that it will be a physician who deserves our respect. However I still hope that we customarily-deceived-ones who live inside the Great Firewall will realize that if we join the chorus of voices screaming “don’t create rumors, don’t spread rumors, wait for an official announcement” we will in fact be trampling on the fresh tomb of Dr. Li Wenliang. At the very least, I hope that we will not forget him.

Today I have been playing Kay Tse (Xie Anqi 谢安琪) ’s song “My Country’s Tomorrow”[家明]

[Note: This song, which became an anthem of Hong Kong’s 2014 “Umbrella” democracy movement, included a reference to 1989 Tiananmen “Who will be willing for the sake of their beautiful ideals to stand up to tanks”.]

This song on many music websites in Mainland China suffered the same fate as the music of [2014 Hong Kong Umbrella Democracy Movement participant Denise Ho Wan-see [He Yunshi 何韵诗].

Last year a friend helped me buy a legal copy of Kay Tse’s album.

Every time I listen to this album many “stand firm no matter how overwhelming the forces arrayed against him” sort of sensitive phrases came to mind such as “All he wanted was to love but just barely missed being sent to the guillotine”:

No matter whether you love it or not
You still need need to come home with that kind of courage
Bricks and tiles can be found all over, but that special kind
When teaching ideals don’t talk about what they cost
Finally even when submerging in the watery sands, won’t they gleam a bit as they sink?
When annihilation nears, if you believe in fairy tales
You may hope to see the White Horse on the horizon
He left to find the most beloved but today has not yet returned
What it means in the end will depend on how history sees it

I wish peace for those still among us.

I hope for those who have left us that they will not reincarnate in this land.

Kay Tse (Xie Anqi 谢安琪) ’s song “My Country’s Tomorrow”[家明]

Chinese text:

2月7日 武汉封城第16天















每次听这首歌的时候我都会想到很多很多“虽千万人吾往矣”的敏感词,“他不过想要爱 差点上断头台”:



时代遍地砖瓦 却欠这种优雅

教人梦想 不要去谈代价

最后即使走进浮砂 沉没中也会发出光亮吗

临近破灭一下 要是信任童话


他出发找最爱 今天也未回来



About 高大伟 David Cowhig

After retirement translated,with wife Jessie, Liao Yiwu's 2019 "Bullets and Opium", and have been studying things 格物致知. Worked 25 years as a US State Department Foreign Service Officer including ten years at US Embassy Beijing and US Consulate General Chengdu and four years as a China Analyst in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research. Before State I translated Japanese and Chinese scientific and technical books and articles into English freelance for six years. Before that I taught English at Tunghai University in Taiwan for three years. And before that I worked two summers on Norwegian farms, milking cows and feeding chickens.
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