(All photos taken from Weibo. Names have been removed.)
Drastic measures have been imposed by the Chinese government to contain the spread of the new coronavirus. In a quarantine of unprecedented size and scale, almost 60 million people in and around the epicentre of Wuhan have been confined to their cities, while nationwide travel has been heavily curtailed.
Fearful that travellers from Hubei will infect their communities, Chinese people are creating their own blockades to keep out human traffic and infection. Such photos are widely shared on Weibo.
Banners, barricades, and leaked information
In a bid to stop travellers from Wuhan and Hubei from infecting their communities, villagers and even local officials have resorted to putting up homemade banners, barricades, and even leaking lists that contain the names of people who are from Wuhan and have returned home for the Chinese New Year holidays.
Villagers have also resorted to making their own roadblocks to bar people from Wuhan and Hubei from entering.
Blacklisted and shamed
People from Wuhan and Hubei who actually made it back to their home provinces are also having their personal particulars leaked and shared in chat groups.
According to The Beijing News, the personal information of numerous Wuhan people who have returned to their home provinces were exposed after they complied with investigation procedures. The information includes their names, home addresses, phone numbers, identification numbers, transportation they took on their return trips, and even their gaokao (National College Entrance Examination) results. This list was then disseminated in the chat groups of various residential areas and villages. Many people even reported that they were harassed over the phone and on WeChat by strangers. Others have had hotels deny them accommodation because their identity cards state that they are from Wuhan. People working in Wuhan who were returning home have had their fellow countrymen demand that they "go back to Wuhan". While the objectivity of these comments remains questionable, it is certain that "Wuhan terror" exists. The demonisation of the people of Wuhan and Hubei has also turned what was meant to be a fight against the coronavirus as a whole nation into a "civil war" against their own.
In the post below, a netizen says, “I’m only a university student from Anyang, Henan. Ever since I came home, I’ve kept a close watch on the outbreak and self-quarantined. Why are people blatantly sharing personal information everywhere? (I’ve already reported them) I hope that the people who see such leaked information will speak up on behalf of us university students. This is too depressing!”
One of the photos attached with the post (below) reads: “A few days ago, classmates from Wuhan shared online that their village chief exposed all the personal information of people who’ve returned home from Wuhan. Their names, identification numbers, home addresses and so on were leaked. I thought this could just be a standalone case. Today, I actually found out that a certain high school teacher also disseminated this document, and the information leaked was more detailed than the one from the village chief. Some other teachers who saw the list actually shared it themselves as well, along with the line ‘Be sure to see if these people are around you’, ‘Be careful and protect yourselves’, and so on.”
Resorting to concealing car plates
With “Wuhan terror” intensifying, people are highly suspicious of people from the epicentre of the virus outbreak. Cars with car plates starting with “鄂A” (鄂 refers to Hubei, A refers to Wuhan) are surrounded and besieged.
Netizens describe the stark contrast between encouraging posts online and the harsh reality faced every day, such as: “Wuhan, you can do it! Wuhan, hang in there!; Reality: Car plate with “鄂A” spotted!! Call the cops quick.”
It is not only “鄂A” car plates that are shunned like diseases. Online shaming of people from Wuhan and Hubei has spread as well.
In the post below, a netizen fumes about a confirmed case in Jiangmen: “This bastard still returned to Hubei on 20 January, and then returned to Jiangmen again, and didn’t wear a mask. He is such a bastard! He’s spreading his germs and should be put in jail! It’s not that we have something against Wuhan, it’s because of black sheep like this that resulted in “Wuhan terror”!
Another netizen says (below): “The people could have had a good rest over the holidays, have a reunion dinner with their family happily, and shop, drink, and watch movies with their friends. We could’ve gone to temple fairs, sip tea and busk under the sun in parks, or travel to a country long on our bucket list. We could’ve had a smashing start to the first Spring of the new decade. If only idiots who ate wild animals didn’t exist.”
As online shaming spreads and intensifies, the Wuhan people not only suffer from possible infection, but also from immense psychological stress due to differential treatment and lack of respect and kindness.
A netizen shares the flip side of the story (photo attached below):
“On the 22nd (of January), the eight of us went ahead with the travels that we had booked before the outbreak. After we arrived, we immediately felt “special”. For example, a special registration was needed before we could book a hotel room. We had to take our temperatures every day and undergo long hours of questioning. Our breakfast had to be sent to us separately. All these are understandable; desperate times call for desperate measures and we were as cooperative as we could be.
We originally planned to return to Shiyan on the morning of the 27th, but Shiyan was under lockdown. We had nowhere to go and stayed at Harbin. Right at this moment, the hotel began chasing us away, asking us to stay with the other people from Hubei. One of us called up multiple hotels and went to many of them. They served us nicely when we first arrived, but just as we were about to book a room and flashed our identity cards, they saw that we were from Hubei and immediately came up with endless excuses to deny us accommodation. After multiple failures, we returned to our initial hotel. After rounds of communication and compromise with the local police and people in the community, they agreed to let us stay for a week.
We’re now in self-quarantine, and there’s only the eight of us on this floor of the hotel. Nobody came to clean our rooms. Nobody notified me that my food delivery had already been delivered this morning. They just left the food on the floor of the lift landing. I don’t know when this discrimination against the people from Hubei started since the coronavirus outbreak. When we’re outside, most of us are afraid of admitting that we're from Hubei. Do a quick online search and you’ll find other people from Hubei who’ve had similar experiences as us: they’re rejected by hotels and have nowhere to go. Many places even ban the entry of car plates that start with “鄂”. I also hear many people saying that the outbreak is very serious and that many people of Hubei have since escaped. But I just want to say that, under such circumstances, I’m willing to return to Hubei, to return to my own home, and to self-quarantine. I’m willing to do so even if the outbreak is there, and no matter how bad the outbreak may be, because that is where my home is.”
China has started to dispatch Chinese planes to bring overseas Wuhan citizens back to the virus-hit city. China's foreign ministry said earlier today (31 January) that the country would be bringing Wuhan residents back from overseas "as soon as possible" due to "the practical difficulties that Chinese citizens from Hubei, especially Wuhan, have faced overseas", after a number of airlines either halted or reduced the number of flights to China.
This photo story was put together by Grace Chong, ThinkChina.