Chinese film marks one year since Wuhan lockdown
China on Friday hosted a patriotic documentary to celebrate the one-year anniversary of Wuhan’s coronavirus shutdown, as part of a broader effort by authorities to put the government’s early response to COVID-19 in a positive light.
A small number of viewers gathered in Beijing to see the film Wuhan Days and Nights, while it was released to the public exactly a year after Wuhan had a surprise in the early morning hours of January 23, 2020.
Wuhan, in the central province of Hubei, is believed to be the center of the global pandemic that has so far infected nearly 100 million people and killed more than two million people.
China managed to destroy the virus months later with strict controls, and life in Wuhan has largely returned to normal, but the government’s early response has drawn widespread public criticism.
The documentary, a co-production between state media and the Hubei propaganda department, was released in theaters nationwide and contains tear-jerking scenes in Wuhan’s hospitals, including medical staff caring for patients and shots fired from empty streets.
“This is the use of life to record life and create a heroic song of praise from the people,” a state media article posted on the Wuhan government website after medical workers in the city of Wuhan had seen earlier.
State media described the film as the first major documentary on China’s outbreak.
Year of struggle
Dozens of laudable documentaries have been released by local propaganda authorities and government-backed media about the COVID-19 outbreak in China, which provoked wartime analogies to describe the actions of medical workers and policymakers, including President Xi Jinping.
The film’s release comes as China battles a new wave of infections after months of apparent success in containing the virus. Authorities are discouraging travel during next month’s New Year’s holiday and have closed some cities, in a terrible repeat of last year.
“I wanted to learn how China went through the hardships,” said a woman, Li, 32, who was one of the first people to see the film in Beijing. “We’ve been through a year of struggle and hard work, and now there are new cases in many places.”
Beijing has also tried to control the story surrounding the outbreak by silencing critics.
There was an outburst of public sadness and anger in February 2020 after the COVID-19 death of a Chinese doctor who was reprimanded for issuing an early warning about the disease.
In December, a Chinese court sentenced civilian journalist Zhang Zhan to four years in prison for sharing her own series of first-hand accounts from Wuhan’s streets and hospitals.
Wuhan officially recorded 46,483 cases of the disease and 3,869 deaths.