Wuhan Diary #16: The Twentieth Day of the Wuhan City Closure — February 11, 2020

“If you could have viewed a Wuhan friend group on WeChat, you would have seen for yourself yesterday evening that the groups were flooded with postings “I am in the One Percent”. Graphic by 巴丢草 Badiucao 

February 11 Twentieth Day of the Wuhan City Closure

Life seems to have come to a halt yet time continues to slip by.

Today I finally saw our community’s epidemic report on our neighborhood WeChat group. Our community has twenty confirmed cases of coronavirus pneumonia. Most have already been admitted to the hospital for treatment while some others are either in “concentrated quarantine”or in “home quarantine”. Our building has one person in “home quarantine”.

I have been angry with our community authorities about this kind of thing all along: no epidemic situation report, and no feedback on decontamination not to mention their failure to organize group purchases of vegetables. I had hesitated for many days about whether or not I should call the Mayor’s Hot line to complain. Each time I thought I would call, I would think that the economy is not good these days and it is hard to find a job (I usually assume that caring about other people is reciprocated) so in the end I never did call. Then yesterday morning I heard a friend who lives in another community mention that Wuhan already has ten communities that have been “completely wiped up” – that is all the community workers had caught the coronavirus – so I suddenly decided that getting angry with them wouldn’t serve any purpose. Epidemic prevention is something they just aren’t capable of doing. Forcing them to do it during the state of emergency is imposing on them already, so no need to criticize them too harshly.

We are all just marks on the lowest end of the social scale constantly being taken advantage of so beating up on each other doesn’t do any good.

Yesterday and today I saw some news items that made me more uneasy.

The first was that Wuhan City Communist Party Committee Secretary Ma Guoqiang at the press conference on the progress of epidemic prevention and control work said that: “As of February 9th, Wuhan had checked on 3371 villages and communities for a total of 4.21 million households with 10.59 million people. That proportion of households checked comes to 98.6% and the proportion of people checked reached 99%.” If you could have viewed a Wuhan friend group on WeChat, you would have seen for yourself yesterday evening that the groups were flooded with postings “I am in the One Percent”.

Taking myself as an example, I can tell you that our community hasn’t sent anyone to our door since the Wuhan City closure began. Neither have they called us on the telephone, or even had us register our body temperatures on the community chat group. Anyways, we don’t have a clinical thermometer. What criteria did they use to come up with those figures of 98.6% and 99%?

The second piece of news came out yesterday evening from Wuhan Jinyintan Hospital Director Zhang Dingyu: “The new coronavirus pneumonia is a self-limiting epidemic. Wuhan Jinyintan Hospital has already treated over 1500 cases. Most patients have been able to get treatment and be discharged. The people of Wuhan should not get overly frightened.” That piece of good news taken by itself was encouraging but if you were to put it together with the first one, it seems very strange.

The third item was on today’s news at noon. Cong Liang, a member and Secretary-General of the Party Committee of the State Development and Reform Commission announced that “Manufacturing and services essential to the livelihood of the people shall immediately return to work and to production. Workers on important projects shall return to work and resume work as soon as possible. Other enterprises which do not have sufficient conditions to resume operations for the time may remain closed temporarily. Workers in areas where epidemic is serious and workers not urgently needed may return to work after a suitable delay.”

Having lived in Mainland China for many years, I learned early to compare and analyze statements to get at their deeper significance. However the significance of these two items taken together was very simple: the economy can’t stand any more delay so let’s hurry up and get back to work.

When I compare this to the earlier official order that Hubei return to work on February 14, and not having seen any sign of a delay in that, this cannot but make those of us Wuhan people who live in the center of the epidemic area nervous. Will they just use us as chips in a bet on the virus?

I really do want to get back to work. I want my company to do well. I want to have my usual salary and bonuses. I don’t want to gamble with my health though. Its just not worth it.

These past few days there was another bit of news that was much discussed. Rumor has it that when the Jiangsu Province medical team reached Wuhan they lost their baggage and their supplies were stolen. I don’t know how reliable that report is but, considering the administrative capability of the Wuhan government, I have no doubt that chaos ensues from their arrangements and that misunderstandings and dissatisfaction results is certainly to be expected.

The Chinese Communist Party Youth League newspaper, China Youth Daily WeChat account and then later the Xinhua official press agency both urge you not to believe those social media reports about the Jiangsu medical team. Here one such report is stamped “rumor” in red just so you’ll know.

I do feel however that this case is especially worth mulling over.

First of all, wherever you look, whether it is on the local chat groups or among some online fan groups available nationwide, Jiangsu Province people and Hubei Province people often attack each other by “rumor-mongering” and “refuting rumors” as well as saying “wait for an official statement”. Saying this kind of thing seems to have penetrated to the very marrow young people today. I see these phrases online all the time. I have always felt that the phrase “rumor-mongering” should be used with some reserve. The definition of “rumor-mongering” includes intention. A news event occurs, then has a different look at different stages of its transmission. That is normal. Just because in its details there is some difference from the original event, or even becomes something completely different, do we need to conclude that someone with evil intentions set out to do “rumor-mongering”.

A normal society has a wealth of channels for conveying information, and it quickly be amended or corrected along the way to give a fuller picture. Conversely, in an abnormal society, the terms “rumor-mongering” and “wait for official information” are deployed to block voices circulating in other channels of communication. The end result is that only one explanation is correct, only one loudspeaker is turned on, only one voice is allowed to exist. Dr. Li Wenliang has already proven with his life what a terrible thing that is. Moreover, in addition to tightening up the channels of communication, there is the other method to secretly inciting people on the lower rungs of society to attack one another.

Next, I was surprised to find, quite by accident, that in nearly all the WeChat groups there is someone who brings up “we need to prevent separatists from outside Mainland China from setting the tone”. Yes, you can see that message in nearly all the WeChat groups. That kind of stereotyped expression is so overdone and so frequent that is makes me wonder. Is this really 2020?

Moreover, and this is the way some Wuhan people apologize, something that I have wanted to say, and to be polite I really should express my regret, and I do feel so apologetic, even though an apology is not really necessary. There certainly are people coordinating this, the distribution of supplies is not something you grassroots people can take part in, and even the people who are responsible for those things are not the people that you or I have chosen. None of them have apologized and so there is no need for us to apologize on their behalf.

Yesterday another physician died in the line of duty because he was infected coronavirus pneumonia. It was Professor Lin Zhengbin of the Wuhan Tongji Hospital Organ Transplantation Research Institute.

Today the official news reported that Hubei Province Health Commission Party Organization Secretary Zhang Pu and Director Liu Yingzi have been removed from office. Removed from office but not dismissed. This means that they no longer are in their original position but they have not been reduced in rank.

Untold numbers of people have death and heart-breaking sorrow but this is just another case of “getting away with a small slap on the wrist”. I am already numb to this kind of thing. I only have this to say. If all of Wuhan’s medical workers were to go out on strike, I would support them. On the one hand, the Red Cross Society of China can’t ever manage to handle distribution properly. On the other we rely on medical ethics to compel people, proclaiming loudly that “With no thought of compensation, regardless of whether they will live or die”, medical personnel are forced into a desperate struggle. That is a very evil way of doing getting things done.

Chinese text:

2月11日  武汉封城第20天






















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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2 Responses to Wuhan Diary #16: The Twentieth Day of the Wuhan City Closure — February 11, 2020

  1. Rick Waters says:

    Amazing series, thank you for translating these.


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