Posted by: Dr Churchill | June 2, 2020

Ms Fang’s Diary…

Ms Fang and her diaries of Wuhan started on January 25th of 2020, when Ms Fang Fang wrote about 60 diary entries about her life, the disease, and the resultant deaths as seen in her home town of Wuhan, inside the Hubei province of the people’s Republic of China.

Then she did the unthinkable and posted the lot to WeChat, which is today China’s most popular social media platform…

Ms Fang is not a stranger to controversy, because up to now, she had been a well respected writer of poems, novels and even tele-novellas.

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Indeed, Ms Fang has been a friend of the government since she has won the prestigious Lu Xun Literary Prize in 2010, and was elected president of the government-funded Writers Association of Hubei Province in 2007.

Yet her work has never been translated into English, until now that her diaries caught on fire in the Western world…

It would seem that her diaries were read widely in China, but the Chinese internet Censors had made them disappear and thus their reception was decidedly mixed with some readers celebrating Ms Fang for voicing people’s struggles in lockdown, while others criticized her viewpoints, and the censors banned both her and her diary, where Ms Fang wrote about her persistence: “I’m never too old to lose the strength of criticizing.”

News of publication of her translated diaries in English inflamed the hate and scorn thrown at Ms Fang inside China.

However, in any language, that you read Ms Fang’s words as she describes the unfolding horrors of her recording the peoples’ experiences during the Wuhan Plague, will surely be valuable for the world’s understanding and for the shared memories of this awful time, because Ms Fang writes simply, like a Chinese Hemingway, became before becoming a writer, Ms Fang worked as a dockworker at the Port of Wuhan.

The rough longshoremen dominant male profession, that prevails on the harbor of this great city that straddles the Yangtze and Hanjiang rivers.

As a result Ms Fang’s stories mostly depict the heroic struggles of the social underdogs in the city of Wuhan. Her town…

Ms Fang’s diaries, which I read in the original Mandarin, chronicle the terrible situation in the City of Wuhan throughout the Coronavirus unleashed Covid-19 lockdown and self isolation in order to combat the pandemic…

She describes her daily life in quarantine: food shopping, online communication with families and friends, and responding to readers.

She touches on sensitive topics: the investigation of China’s belated reporting on coronavirus, overcrowded hospitals, and those dying at home unattended.

There are heartbreaking snapshots and small stories everywhere, all scattered, from the photos of the unclaimed cell phones at a mortuary, to the sweet moments when volunteers help with the old and the weak.

Ms Fang reflects on the dilemma of media workers in a public crisis, emergency policies enacted by local administrations, and misinformation capturing the interest of Chinese netizens.

In ms Fang’s diaries, we see a personal account not of a public memory, or of the City’s or even the Nation’s trauma — but the pain of a single human being unable to bear so much pain…

And although Ms Fang’s diaries attracted a large following during the outbreak in China. One reader commented under her post: “These diaries are the respiratory valve for all of us, living under gloom.”

Yet, Ms Fang’s tone is colloquial, poignant and accessible. Her words resonate with people isolated and frightened in her appeals for help, and her grieving over the beloved.

A critical reception

By the end of Fang’s diaries, with the last entry on March 25th, the official criticism against her had reached a crescendo, with Chinese Media targeting the writer’s credibility and integrity. This torrent of criticism peaked when Harper Collins announced it would be publishing the diaries in English translation, under the title: “Wuhan Diary: Dispatches from a Quarantined City.”

Indeed, Ms Fang Fang, was denounced by the State shills in Social Media and by the Censors of the forbidden Chinese discussions in all forums, as the profiteer who is selling “Wuhanese suffering” to Westerners and thus defaming China’s effort in fighting the virus. Other State sponsored censors and official opponents have said this book will “hand over the knife” to anti-Chinese sentiment, and provide legitimacy to conspiracy theories and unjustified blame on China. One post about her on Weibo said: “You’re giving Western countries ammunition to target China.”

There is also some serious shade thrown her way by the Chinese propaganda machine, by sharing and spinning the official narrative about the legitimacy of Fang’s diaries not being the testimony of a person from Wuhan.

And because her writings present the shared anxiety and anger during the period of the Chinese Plague’s quarantine — the Offcial Media paint Ms Fang’s viewpoint as very revisionist, partisan, and even untrue. She is also accused of exposing too many negative emotions, therefore losing any sense of authenticity and objectivity that a journalist has to have…

But I must disagree with the official Chinese narrative, because Ms Fang is not a Journalist.

She is a poet and a writer that channels her emotions, angers, fears and circumstances of painful memories into her words leaping from pages that say & share our common history as a testimony of remembrance.

This is Written History.

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And this is what it means to be a writer.

To be a witness.

And to be part of building the Global Book of Memories, describing, recording, witnessing, and experiencing the transpositions, the revisions, and the reconstructions of the personal and hyper local memories — as opposed to the official State’s narrative that is always serving only the Tyrannical Leaders and it is only useful for propaganda purposes, and thereof its value to humanity is negligible…

Yet our personal diaries, far transcend the official propaganda as distributed by the mass media, and that is why Ms Fang’s diaries will travel easily across borders and barriers, because her message is from the heart, as she passionately considers both the potential for mutual understanding, as well as the difficulty in communicating experiences across languages and cultures.

And as the world goes through the trauma of COVID-19 and its eventual aftermath, psychological effects are emerging. The publication of diaries and other texts will become important in how memories are handled individually and collectively.

In her diaries, Fang states: “People in Wuhan are all traumatized. We’re not lucky; we are only survivors.”

Fang’s writing can help identify patterns, solutions and mindsets to deal with pandemics. She reminds us cooperation is required between people and nations, and this cooperation is too often frustrated because of racial bias, political agendas and economic competition.

She writes about the medical assistance teams from across China aiding Wuhan, and asks why the Wuhanese outside Wuhan – suspected as infected – are refused entry to cities, towns and villages. This story of alienation and repulsion is now recurring in a global context with stories of fear and racism across the world.

She feels that something awful is coming…

And then she is ordered to STOP.

Stop writing or else…

Yours,

Dr Churchill

PS:

These personal memorandums of Ms Fang, are a national and international treasure, very much like the personal diaries of Mr Pepys (Circa 1660s) that gave us a glimpse of the “Manners & Customs of ye Englyshe, as drawn from ye Qvick with Extracts from Mr. Pepys (His Diary).”

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Air Pepys diaries gave us one of the most important primary sources for the English Restoration period, as they provided a combination of personal revelation and eyewitness accounts of very personal stories as well as three great events, such as the Great Plague of London, the Second Dutch War, and the Great Fire of London.

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And it is in that vein of the personal diaries of people like the English Mr Pepys — gave us a glimpse inside the then England of Charles and James, whereas today Ms Fang gives us a glimpse inside the China of Xi JinPing and the Great Chinese Plague.

As Mr Pepys wife (above) Elizabeth would testify — it is now far more important that Ms Fang is allowed to write her personal observations and feelings in a simple way so that they mesh with the global memory of this Great Chinese plague, so that in turn we could inform others and help shape each person’s thinking about how we relate to the “others” in the midst of disease, death, chaos and anguish.

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Yet unlike Mr Pepys and the English culture of sharing where there is a college named after Mr Pepys in Cambridge, and library to boot — I am afraid that Ms Fang’s name has already been effaced from the Chinese Internet as she herself has now been placed in permanent quarantine, to ponder her ‘crimes” along with all the others who became criminals by using forbidden & scary worlds like Liberty & Democracy…

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It is in that respect, that Fang’s diaries are a Treasure to Humanity and indeed reps=resent a true humanitarian intervention into the midst of China, as they capture the peoples of Wuhan common memory, through personal experiences and painful feelings that will help all people inside as well as outside China, to understand and to empathize with other human beings whose lives are all drastically changed by the pandemic — so that they are not hated for the origins of this sickness that separates us all, while at the same time it affects all of us, in equal yet distinct and almost egalitarian ways.

Because in my mind, Ms Fang’s sharing her universally felt and all too human emotions — her diaries will empower those currently feeling isolation, confusion, desperation and even hate form the racists and xenophobes, since by remembering the hardest moments of this pandemic, even as it continues to unfold, people will rethink their very own uncertain present, future and perhaps past as well…

And indeed these diaries are an integral part of the fabric of Humanity’s story as the entirety of Humanity is threatened by the Wuhan Coronavirus, which just happens to be only the latest disease to fuel mistrust, fear, racism and inevitably War.

Please noodle that, for a moment.

Ponder & pontificate…

Think.

And while you are at it, please drown your sorrows at the aptly named, Mr Pepys local pub in Mayfair…

Cheers.


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