It’s true: nothing’s every really over. I’ve realized why these past few days quarantine restrictions seem so familiar: it’s as if both the SARS precautions and the second line have been reactivated. From SARS: we can freely leave our estate, but only residents can enter. From days of the second line: we can freely move about the city, but residents need to be registered to return, while non-residents must prove they have jobs to return to. At present it seems like some jobs will begin again on the 17th and others are scheduled for the 24th. Perhaps schools will be up and running in March.
Here’s the rub: Management protocols that have limited the movement of people still linger. The gates of Shenzhen University, for example, became operationalized during the student quarantine, and afterwards the guards continued to control access to the campus. Inspections in the metro became operationalized during the Universidade and continue to structure access in and out of the system. It remains to be seen how many of these extreme measures will be incorporated into our post 2019 n-CoV normal.
One of the eight Wuhan whistleblowers, Li Wenliang (李文亮) died on February 7, Chinese time. Most of the posts to my friends’ circle (朋友圈) are memorials to him. In addition to pictures of Li Wenliang wearing a face mask, these posts include images of his police file for creating rumors about a SARS-like virus and screenshots of relevant posts, including international posts in English and German. In addition, essays about his life and the meaning of his death are starting to appear. The more ‘viral’ of these essays emphasize the fact that he was an ordinary person doing his job and that he had the courage to speak truth to power. These posts imply a relationship between Li Wenliang’s status and his courage; only the ordinary, it would seem, are able to tell the truth, affirming both the need for public intellectuals to watchdog the public realm and the public’s right to have intellectual watchdogs looking out for their interests. Continue reading
I went out this morning to buy fresh bread (still warm!) at my favorite bakery. The stairwell in our building is not only spotless, but also smells of disinfectant. In the compound, our resident Party Center (党群中心) had an announcement about sanitation safety on loop. One of the security guards took my temperature as I left and as I returned.
Things that I’ve heard from friends in other parts of the city: streets are empty, but in Baishizhou, more storefronts have been cordoned off; the country may be on lockdown, but it is partial. Urban renewal proceeds. Also, students have been sent reading materials and some have already begun online classes.
Something I’ve heard from a friend whose hometown is near Wuhan: everyone must stay indoors. One person per household can leave once every five days to purchase food and necessities.
Yesterday, on my way out for grocery shopping, I had to open the gate to leave the housing estate. This was somewhat strange because usually the gate is left open to pedestrians, but I didn’t think too much about it, especially because as I walked down the street I noticed that small groceries had opened, including my favorite bakery. On the face of it, things were getting back to normal. However, when I arrived back home, I entered the gate to discover several police officers and red-vested individuals, who I presume were some kind of volunteer. They were busy conferring with each other and the estate security guards. They didn’t say what they were up to, but several hours later a friend posted a map of confirmed cases of 2019-nCoV in the neighborhood. There were no cases in our estate, but four in nearby estates. Another friend then posted an app for checking the location of confirmed cases throughout the city.
Here’s the point: this morning cat litter was delivered to our gate, but not our door. For the moment it seems, only residents can come into and leave the estate. I’m not sure if this means the security guards will start taking our temperature or not. I’ll go out today to find out.
One of the major complaints that I am hearing in Shenzhen is the lack of transparency about information about the new coronavirus; most of the information we are hearing isn’t coming from official sources. Indeed, the first announcement of the Wuhan coronavirus came from eight unnamed, unofficial sources, which announced that a new virus had been discovered. The Wuhan police “handled them according to law” for spreading rumors and reminded the public that “the net isn’t outside the law.”
Although we are beginning to receive word that return (from cities north of Wuhan on the Beijing-Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong) have been cancelled, nevertheless yesterday, the CPC Central Committee of Shenzhen announced that the city was not being locked down. Instead, these posts emphasized the measures that the city was taken to maintain the public’s health. Measures include mandating wearing breathing masks in public spaces and having your temperature taken when entering buildings and crossing borders in and out of the city. Nevertheless, the buses and subway are still running, supermarkets are still open, and as I write I can hear garbage being collected and processed. Continue reading
The threat of Wuhan coronavirus, notwithstanding, chez Shenzhen it’s been a strangely low-key beginning to the year of the rat or mouse or any other kind of rodentia that floats your boat. Squirrels and hamsters, moles and chinchillas with their long, long whiskers–any and all can appear on a happy new years card, although most are ordinary brown or white mice, and some are wearing breathing masks. Most public spaces have emptied out, events have been cancelled, and we’re at home eating dried persimmons, roasted chestnuts, and dumplings. Someone mentions that the night before they (and who are they?) locked down Wuhan, four million people departed the city. Some must have had advanced knowledge of the shutdown, but others must have been traveling for the New Year. After all, Wuhan is one of the four most important railway transit hubs in China; anyone on the Beijing-Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong high speed train went through Wuhan on their way north. We’ll see how (and when) they make their way back.
Yesterday I walked Baishizhou, remembering the bustle of our rushed departure. Bikes and motorbikes, cars and moving vans clogged the hot streets, and we squeezed through and around pedestrians on their way home or to work or to shop or out for a snack. Yesterday, even the once crowded food alley has been mostly abandoned; a few shops are still open at the intersections between the alley and main roads, but the overwhelming feeling is one of departure and a viscous waiting.
So, I wrote Heart of Shenzhen: The Movement to Preserve ‘Ancient’ Hubei Village. It was published in The New Companion to Urban Design, an (embarrassingly expensive) anthology, edited by Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris & Tridib Banerjee. The paper tracks the rise of public intellectuals in Shenzhen as well as growing identification with the city’s cultural geographies.
So, it’s been a while since I’ve written. There are reasons and non reasons for my digital silence, but one of the more relevant to my life as a blogger has been Handshake’s move from Baishizhou to Xiasha. Even as the evictions in Baishizhou proceed, we have started a new project “Marquee (走马灯),” which explores the relationship between technology and daily life. We are curious about your first mobile phone experience, your favorite wearable device, and the products that embarrass you. Continue reading