February 13 The Twenty-second Day of the Wuhan City Closure
Yesterday I dreamed of buying vegetables in a very big vegetable market. I bought tomatoes and looked for potatoes. After buying potatoes I looked for eggplant. After buying eggplant I bought cauliflower. After I bought cauliflower, I looked for cucumber. Ah, why couldn’t I find cucumber? I walked around and around but I didn’t see it, so I went back to where I started and looked again.
This is the second time I’ve dreamed about the epidemic. The first time was two days after the city closure. One evening I dreamed that I was sealed tightly in a protective suit (naturally I have never worn a protective suit). No matter how hard I struggled, I could not get out of it. There was less and less air in my suit. The more worried I got the more labored my breathing became. In the end I could only breathe in great gasps. In my the depths of my dream I really did feel I was suffocating and badly frightened as I got less and less oxygen. I suddenly woke up and took a deep breath. My whole body shook and tensed up before finally I could relax.
Today several news items shook me up.
The first was the news that Shanghai Mayor Ying Yong was transferred to Hubei to become the new Hubei Communist Party Committee Secretary. That new was the neighborhood chat groups and the chat groups of my friends on WeChat. Shanghai friends also talked about him. However I really don’t care about the rise and fall of officials. No matter whether it is Ying Yong or Jiang Chaoliang, they all belong to that army of poisonous bugs that have been taking over every level and every nook and cranny of the Mainland China bureaucracy for many years. This is a just a sleight of hand that addresses symptoms but not the disease. So what difference will it make.
The second item is that at noon today Hubei Province finally announced its long-delayed decision to delay the return to work. Now the February 21 is the day set to go back to work. That amount to saving me a week of vacation leave. The day to return to work had originally set to February 14. They only send out the notice today. They had not consideration for the many people outside Wuhan who were on their way back to the city.
A friend had originally planned to drive herself back to Wuhan today. She got up early and went out the door to go though the formalities for entering the city. “I had to take one piece of paper to four different places to get four different stamps!” Even more frustrating was she had to wait in line for half an hour or more at each place. When she was going get the third stamp it was time for the noon break in government offices so he had to wait for the workers to come back at 2:30. When I told her about the notice that the return to work had been delayed, you can just imagine at how angry she got. It is absolutely ridiculous that a place where people routing pay with their smartphones and where the electronic service delivery is so highly developed would, especially during the emergency, still have people standing in line to get documents their stamped.
The last news report I saw in my friends’ WeChat chat group. The protagonist is a acquaintance who was infected with the new coronavirus pneumonia. When his condition became serious, the hospital issue him a certification of critical condition. Now he has completely recovered. It is, in fact, an “upbeat” report. This grabbed my attention because we had met several days before he was admitted to the hospital. He told me then that he had had a low-grade fever for several days. I assumed it was a cold and so asked him to take good care of himself. Later, because the city closed, we didn’t have much contact and I didn’t know that he had been admitted to the hospital…. I don’t know how I should describe my feelings. Maybe I feel lucky, maybe I think it was miraculous. That today I can calmly sit here typing is something that I really thank my immune system for.
Yesterday evening several other news items also grabbed my attention.
The first is the “Wuhan Evening News” published a news story “Ten Days After Her Miscarriage, a Female Nurse in her Twenties Returned to the Front-lines”. Apart from that story, there was another similar type of story a video entitled “A Nurse in the Ninth Month of Her Pregnancy Insisted on Remaining at Her Post on the Front lines” circulated online. Those two brave women deserve our gratitude. Officials, however, should not encourage and praise that kind of behavior because it runs counter to humanitarian values.
Another WuhanNet article is entitled “While the Epidemic is Growing, Why Not Give the Wuhan Mayor Some Consolation”. The article is very vicious but also merely vulgar with nothing special to recommend it. That it appeared on the very same day of Ying Yong replaced the old Hubei Province Party Secretary its the only interesting thing about it.
The third article is “I Would Much Rather Hear “Go Wuhan” than “We Share the Same Winds and Skies” that appeared in the Changjiang Ribao which like the Wuhan Wanbao belong to the Chiangjiang Ribao Newspaper Group. This worse than dogshit article of course conveys the angry voice of a Wuhan resident. In particular the words “After Auschwitz, it is cruel to write poetry”. This demonstrates that all the people involved from the author, to the editor and the leader who signed off on the article are ignoramuses. Not they I am surprised that they would write such a thoroughly rotten piece. Anyone knowledgeable about the major media in Wuhan, however, will know that, unless they have good connections, that in the open examinations for jobs with this newspaper group, that Journalism Department students who graduated from Wuhan University or Huazhong University of Science and Technology, among the weaker students at their schools, do not do well. It is not unusual for the newspaper group to hire students from polytechnics instead.
What I found interesting is that from that article one can try to figure out the current orientation of propaganda work. These past two days on many official media WeChat accounts and marketing company public accounts there have been articles like “Russia Why Did You Just Dump Your Supplies and Take Off? Are You Going to Write Some Poetry?” that intended to criticize Japan and flatter Russia. This is probably because recent Japanese assistance to China is appreciated by many in Mainland China. Any significant trend in public opinion will be noticed and guided by the Chinese Communist Party. I can tell whether the author of this article was assigned the task of fathoming what the hierarchy wanted. Too bad the result was so poorly done that everyone on line laughed at it as unreadable rubbish.
As a Wuhan resident I am very grateful for Japan’s help. “The mountains and rivers divide us but the same wind, moon and sky bring us together” is the most heartfelt blessing I have ever heard. As a “person”, I have a naive and unsophisticated sympathy for the Japanese people. When in 2008, after the Wenchan Earthquake in Sichuan Japan sent a rescue team the most common keywords found in articles about them were words like “spy”, “real story”, “entering military restricted area”.
Nonetheless this time they still gave us their most considerate and sincere assistance. I believe it is only a matter of time until Mainland China has its next “The Flesh-rending Knight”-like anti-Japanese film. The “nationalist feeling” this kind of film stirs up is for the Chinese Communist Party just another tool of governance. It makes me very sad. History should not be about teaching hatred and conspiracy theories. Instead, history should teach us not to repeat the mistakes of the past. “Good” rather than “Evil” is what we need engraved in our memory.
What a shame that in the logic of Chinese Communist Party rule, adherence to the Party always trumps humanitarian values.
The nominations for the latest Hong Kong Film Awards have come out. For someone who was once crazy about Hong Kong films, seeing the Golden Rooster Awards Venue Style I am torn by complicated feelings.
Mainlanders always like to say “Don’t let politics affect film making. Keep movies pure.” They talk as if politics don’t influence movie making in China. There is nothing in life that is not tied into politics somehow. Didn’t the decline of the Hong Kong film industry began with Hong Kong’s “return” to China?
Without spiritual freedom, how can creative works be open and independent? If you want to preserve independence and freedom, you definitely need to have a political order that recognizes the dangers and is wary of anything that could erode that freedom.
Fortunately, there is still the Golden Horse Film Festival and Awards that carries the last torch of hope for Chinese-language film-making. Oh Taiwan, don’t you repeat Hong Kong’s mistakes!