It was bad enough that author Fang Fang (方方) has regularly posted her popular Wuhan Diary (武汉日记) on China’s social media, offering her personal — and not occasionally, critical — comments on the effects of the deadly epidemic during the lockdown, penned at Ground Zero. Reports The Diplomat (Conscience of Wuhan):
. . . each entry in Fang’s Wuhan Diary has been consistently deleted by Beijing’s censors within an hour or so of it being posted on Fang’s social media page. Yet each post has gone viral before being struck down, being shared by millions of WeChatters within China and abroad.
But now there is even worse news for the ongoing global PR campaign to position China’s anti-Covid-19 strategy, specifically its vacuum-sealed lockdown of Wuhan, as successful, heroic and a model for the rest of the world. Reports China’s Global Times (Publication of Wuhan diary in English):
Now some people are wondering if Fang received a certain amount of money from overseas to let the book be published for some reasons.
And it appears to be true. HarperCollins Publishers has announced the launch of Wuhan Diary: Dispatches from a Quarantined City, translated by Michael Berry, for end June 2020.
Perhaps in an attempt to dissuade potential readers overseas from purchasing the diary, a smear campaign targeting Fang Fang is well underway. The same article in the Global Times notes that:
she fell from grace in late March when many netizens and scholars began to question the authenticity of her diary.
Apparently, her posts were insufficiently positive and neglected the official version of events. From the same Global Times article:
Like Fang Fang, Ye Qing, a deputy director of the Statistics Bureau of Central China’s Hubei Province, has also been documenting the stories of Wuhan since the city was locked down on January 23. In his journal, he slammed bureaucracy and formalism after witnessing the problems in the early stages of the local government’s handling of the outbreak and offered many suggestions for controlling the epidemic.
Commenting on Fang Fang’s diary, Ye said she focused more on grassroots voices, but unfortunately, her material is incomplete and most of her sources came from hearsay. “All the sources in my journal were from official announcements, and I wanted to display a comprehensive image of how Wuhan people fought the virus,” Ye said.
As usual, Chinese media has focused so far on English media, i.e., the upcoming launch of Fang Fang’s diary in English. However, criticism is likely to intensify when and if Chinese netizens and social media fans learn about the German version of the diary. Two key related factoids:
- The title: Wuhan Diary: Das verbotene Tagebuch aus der Stadt, in der die Corona-Krise begann, which loosely translated, reads: Wuhan Diary: The Forbidden Diary from the City where the Corona Crisis Originated.
- Launch date: June 4, 2020. The Global Times obliquely refers to this taboo date — best known in the West as the day of the Tian’anmen Square Massacre — as “a political disturbance between spring and summer in 1989.”
No doubt Fang Fang will be taken to task not just for allowing her diary to be published abroad — how dare she! — but perhaps equally for allowing it to be marketed as “banned” back in the People’s Republic of Amnesia. This, despite the fact that many of her entries were reportedly scrubbed from the internet just hours after they were posted.
For a related piece in French that also contains content from the diary, visit Témoignage de gratitude. Also, check out — and join, if you like — in the discussion of the diary brouhaha now underway over at Paper-Republic. In the wake of this affair, Fang Fang has now been interviewed and told her side of the story. For the Chinese interview, click here.
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