Wang Fang, a Wuhan-based writer who publishes under the pen name “Fang Fang,” is one of the more than 11 million Wuhan residents who lived through the two months of quarantine as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. On Jan. 25, she learned the tragic news of the passing of Dr. Li Wenliang, one of the eight whistleblowers who warned the public about the Wuhan virus back in December 2019.
Fang wrote her first entry of what later became known as “Wuhan Diary” on WeChat, a popular Twitter-like social media platform in China owned by Weibo. From then on, she wrote 60 entries until Beijing lifted the Wuhan lockdown.
Fang’s Diary Grants a Window to Wuhan
Fang’s online diary was very conversational. She talked about the weather, her flowers, the price of food, and daily challenges she faced, such as running low on her diabetic medicine. She also chronicled the sufferings and deaths she observed, as well as what she had heard from others. She didn’t shrink from criticizing the government’s cover-ups and propaganda.
For instance, when Wuhan’s Communist Party leader demanded that Wuhanese undergo “gratitude education” to thank the Communist Party for its leadership in winning the “people’s war” against the coronavirus outbreak, Fang wrote: “The government is the people’s government. It exists to serve the people. Please take back your arrogance and humbly show gratitude to your masters — the millions of Wuhan people. The government should apologize to people as soon as possible. It’s time to reflect and find people who are responsible for today’s situation.”
Her simple and straightforward writing style attracted millions of Chinese readers. Every day, people waited eagerly to devour her new entry. Of course, for the Chinese government, such truth-speaking is dangerous because it counters the government’s narrative that “the Communist Party has everything under control” and “the party knows what’s best for the Chinese people.”
Chinese censors deleted each of Fang’s posts within hours. Still, many Chinese netizens and human rights organizations managed to save digital copies of some of her entries. Some even left notes to censors, such as this one:
I am deeply touched by Ms. Fang’s essay and the difficult lives that people in Wuhan have endured. Not only are they quarantined from the rest of the world, they are also not allowed to speak the truth. When you are doing your censoring, please show mercy and see if you can let this piece stay in the public forum as long as you can before you have to delete it. Ordinary folks in Wuhan and in the rest of China are counting on someone like Ms. Fang to speak on behalf of them.
Fang expressed her censorship frustration in one of her entries:
The article I posted on WeChat yesterday was deleted again, and my Weibo account has also once again been blocked. I thought I couldn’t post on Weibo anymore, and then found out that they only censored yesterday’s post and that new posts can still be published. It made me instantly happy. Alas, I am like a frightened bird. I no longer know what I can say and what I can’t. When it comes to something as important as this fight against the epidemic, I’m cooperating fully with the government and obeying all their commands. I’m now just short of taking an oath with a fist over my heart — is this still not enough?
On March 25, in her last diary entry, Fang wrote, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.” What she didn’t expect was that the fight to defend her reputation had just begun.
Fang’s outspokenness has attracted admirers as well as detractors. Chinese nationalist trolls started viciously attacking Fang, initially on Chinese social media platforms, publishing her home address, spreading rumors about her finances, implying she was paid by the West to fabricate her diary all this time. Some have even threatened to go to Wuhan to kill her.
After publisher Harper Collins announced it would publish a translated version of Fang’s “Wuhan Diary” this summer, these Chinese nationalist trolls began to vehemently attack her on Twitter, some insulting her appearance through fat-shaming, some claiming she’s never been a good writer, but most calling her a “liar” and a “traitor” and her diary “a tool deployed by the west to sabotage Chinese government’s heroic effort to contain the outbreak.”
Who are these Chinese nationalist trolls? Some are nicknamed “Wumao” or “50 cents,” because the Chinese government supposedly pays them 50 cents for each tweet. Some became trolls on their own initiative, but no matter their origin, they are easy to identify on Twitter.
Keep in mind that Twitter is blocked in China, so to get over China’s internet firewall, trolls have to use a virtual private network, or VPN. Their account activation dates are often recent because they open accounts only when they identify someone to attack. They usually have very few followers and rarely follow many others because their goal is not to encounter new ideas and different opinions, but to defend Beijing’s propaganda and attack anyone who criticizes China or doesn’t tow Beijing’s official line on issues related to Hong Kong and Taiwan.
These nationalist trolls are angry most of the time, and the way they throw their insults reminds people of red guards from Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution. They are especially malicious toward ethnic Chinese who think differently. They often use the most racist, sexist, violent, and hateful language to go after ethnic Chinese women, as evident by Fang and Fan’s experiences. It is a shame Twitter has done little to rein in these trolls.
On March 19, the federal government’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) released guidance to state and local officials on the identification of essential critical infrastructure workers during the COVID-19 response.
Of the 16 factors referenced in the IDENTIFICATION OF ESSENTIAL CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURE WORKERS, NOVA TECH is most closely categorized under CRITICAL MANUFACTURING:
Workers necessary for the manufacturing of materials and products needed for medical supply chains, and for supply chains associated with transportation, energy, communications, food and agriculture, chemical manufacturing, nuclear facilities, the operation of dams, water and wastewater treatment, emergency services, and the defense industrial base. Additionally, workers needed to maintain the continuity of these manufacturing functions and associated supply chains.
As a manufacturer, NOVA TECH has long provided this type of product and service to several of the industries mentioned. As such our employees are therefore EXEMPT from state and local movement restrictions with regard to their performance as employees. Furthermore, the type of work our employees perform does not lend itself to working from home, and all employees do comply with all recommended virus prevention measures.
It is our intent to remain open to ensure no disruption of service during this uncertain time.
Please direct any inquires to regarding this statement via email to Mike Flint, or by phone at 336-513-5200.