No publisher is willing or able to publish their works in China. The social media posts and articles they endorse are often censored. Some people who spoke out in favor of them in public were punished, including a literary professor in Wuhan who lost their membership in the Communist Party and their right to teach.
“I think Fang Fang wrote about what happened,” said Amy Ye, the organizer of a volunteer group for disabled people in Wuhan. “In fact, I don’t think she included the most dire situations. Your diary is very moderate. I don’t understand why such a thing could not be tolerated. “
This requirement for a single narrative carries risks. It silences those who might warn the government before it does something stupid like stumbling into conflict or disrupting China’s economic growth machine.
It also hides the real feelings of the Chinese people. On the street, most Chinese people like to tell you what they think, perhaps in great detail. But China became more opaque in 2020. Online censorship got tougher. Few Chinese people are willing to take the risk of speaking to Western news media. Beijing has expelled many American journalists, including those from the New York Times.
This single narrative also means that people who don’t fit in run the risk of being left behind.
Ms. Ye, the volunteer organizer of the Wuhan Group, doesn’t think Wuhan could win a victory over the pandemic. “My whole world has changed and it will probably never go back to what it used to be,” she said.
She is still struggling with depression and the fear of getting out of her apartment. As a pre-pandemic outgoing person, she has only attended one social gathering since lockdown ended in April.
“We were suddenly locked up at home for many days. So many people died. But nobody was held accountable, ”she said. “I would probably feel better if someone could apologize for not doing their job.”
“I can’t forget the pain,” she said. “It’s engraved on my bones and my heart.”