Fang Fang, chronicler of Wuhan lockdowns, now effectively a prisoner

The Chinese writer, who has been writing an online diary about the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic in Wuhan, has been censored by authorities and is effectively a prisoner in her home, she told the Sunday Times of London.

Fang Fang, 67, said she feels “a little depressed” after facing pressure from Chinese authorities who banned her work.

In the early days of the 2020 pandemic, Fang’s virus diary from ground zero of the COVID outbreak provided first-hand insight into the city, which was the first to face severe lockdowns.

Her posts on Weibo – the Chinese equivalent of Twitter – have detailed her struggles living alone with her dog, as well as the darker side of Chinese bureaucracy. They were read by tens of millions of Chinese, looking beyond official Communist Party offices, who initially downplayed the dangers of the virus.

Although she has faced a spate of criticism from authorities in the past, she is now effectively a recluse and her books are banned, she said. Fang is the pseudonym of Wang Fang, who has lived in Wuhan since she was very young.

“I am not allowed to take part in social activities, publish essays, publish my new work or have my old work reprinted,” she said in an interview with the Sunday Times of London this week. “For a professional writer like me, that’s the greatest penalty he can inflict.”

A medical worker takes a swab sample from a resident for nucleic acid testing, December 10, 2022 in Wuhan, China.
A medical worker takes a swab sample from a resident for a nucleic acid test in Wuhan, China, December 10.
Workers transport the body of a COVID-19 victim to a hospital in Wuhan, China, on February 16, 2020.
Fang’s diary offered first-hand insight into Wuhan’s lockdowns in the early days of the pandemic.

In the email interview, Fang described the government’s treatment as a form of “cold violence.”

“All these impacts I’m facing are simply because I recorded my experiences during the lockdown in Wuhan and published a book called ‘Wuhan Diary,'” she said. “I haven’t broken a single law or broken a single rule. The whole thing is extremely bizarre and absolutely unimaginable.”

After widespread protests earlier this month, the Chinese government was forced to reverse its “zero-COVID” policy.

Fang said she started writing her daily chronicles at the suggestion of an editor at a Chinese literary magazine. “That gave me the impetus to record things, I started posting a record of what was happening,” she said. “The diary seemed to bring solace to many readers.”

Fang received numerous death threats, which increased when Michael Berry, the director of the University of California’s Center for Chinese Studies, began translating her articles into English, entitled Wuhan Diary: Dispatches from a Quarantined City.

Now her phone is bugged and she is being monitored whenever she leaves her home, Fang told the Times of London. Fang Fang, chronicler of Wuhan lockdowns, now effectively a prisoner


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