03/16/2020, 13.26
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Fang Fang: in the fight against the virus, the Party must thank the people, not the other way around

The real heroes are the people who stayed home as well as the doctors, nurses and volunteers. Those responsible for delays in responding to the crisis must resign and be put on trial.


Beijing (AsiaNews) – The well-known Chinese author Fang Fang attacks the arrogance of the Communist Party, which is asking Wuhan residents to thank the authorities for their response to the epidemic crisis. A “education gratitude" campaign was launched just before President Xi Jinping visited the city on 10 March. According to some, this initiative reflects the feudal thinking of China’s ruling mandarins, whereby the people must always show gratitude for whatever the government does, despite the propaganda claiming that the rulers are the servants of the people. Below is an excerpt from Fang Fang's thoughts published on Caixin on 12 March.

A word that crops up frequently in conversation these days is “gratitude.” High-level officials in Wuhan demand that the people show they’re grateful to the Communist Party and the country. I find this way of thinking very strange. Our government is supposed to be a people’s government; it exists solely to serve the people. Government officials work for us, not the other way around. I don’t understand why our leaders seem to draw exactly the opposite conclusion.

As Wuhan University professor Feng Tianyu said: “When it comes to expressing thanks, never invert the relationship of the people to their rulers.” Feng goes on to say we need look no further than Marx for a criticism of how viewing rulers as benefactors demands that the people prostrate themselves in homage. In 1875, Marx wrote in his “Critique of the Gotha Program” that he detested Ferdinand Lassalle’s national-style social democracy, and that people needed to seriously educate themselves on the idea of the nation.

Given the respect that Feng commands in Wuhan and the surrounding province of Hubei, can we safely assume that the incoming group of leaders there will heed his words?

Yes, we need to feel genuinely thankful that the epidemic is now basically under control. But the ones who should be standing up and showing their gratitude are those in government.

The government must express its gratitude to the thousands of families who have watched their loved ones die in the outbreak. Amid this unexpected disaster, which has left them without so much as a chance to give their deceased relatives a proper sendoff, they have endured great sorrow and exercised admirable restraint. Hardly anyone has made a fuss.

The government must thank the more than 5,000 severely ill people still lying in hospitals, locked in a bitter fight with death. Their tenacity and persistence have stopped the list of the dead from lengthening more quickly.

The government must thank all of the 40,000 medical personnel, both locals and those brought in from other parts of China, for snatching life after life from the clutches of death at great personal risk.

The government must thank the organizers, laborers, and volunteers who rushed down every street and alley during the lockdown. Without them, this city wouldn’t have been able to function.

And the government must be most thankful for the 9 million citizens in Wuhan, who stayed indoors and never ventured outside. Without their willingness to overcome serious difficulties and cooperate with the authorities, we’d never have been able to control the epidemic.

Now that we’ve reached this stage, no words can adequately describe the sacrifices of the people of Wuhan. I say to the government: You need to rein in your arrogance and humbly offer thanks to your masters — in this case, the millions of people in Wuhan.

Now is the best time for reflecting on what happened and investigating who is responsible.

A sensible, conscientious government that understands its people’s desire for solace would quickly form an investigatory group and immediately commence a detailed reconstruction of the outbreak from start to finish, in order to find out who missed chances to stop it sooner, who decided to conceal the truth from the public, who covered it up to save face, and who decided that people’s lives were secondary to political correctness. How many people helped create this disaster? The people need to know, as soon as possible, who will bear responsibility.

At the same time, the government should also urge key executive, propaganda and health officials, as well as media workers and officials at hospitals with large numbers of deaths, to immediately conduct self-examinations and voluntarily resign from their posts if they have misled the public or caused unnecessary casualties. The law will decide if their actions constitute a criminal offense.

Yet my impression is that few of China’s government officials reflect on their misdeeds, let alone voluntarily resign because of them. If that happens, perhaps the least the public could do would be to write a petition urging the resignation of officials who view politics as their lifeblood but treat people’s lives like dirt. How can those with blood on their hands continue to point the finger at the people of Wuhan and Hubei? Suppose 10 or 20 officials willingly handed in their notices instead; wouldn’t that prove that our current crop of officials still has some kind of conscience?

This evening, I received a text message from a well-known author. He said something deeply profound: “Who could have expected another catastrophe would befall Wuhan?” In the future, will that wonderful word, “gratitude,” become sullied and filthy? And in the present, will it become too sensitive for public discussion?

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