about those wuhan water park photos

an article by Cécile Tang

Wuhan, once the epicenter of COVID-19, recently held an electronic music festival at its

Maya Beach Water Park. Photos from the festival have since then gone viral: with no

reported locally transmitted cases since mid-May, partygoers gathered at the water park

over the weekend of August 15-16, 2020, seemingly without any social distancing

restrictions or mask-wearing rules.

Today, this scene of celebration represents an indulgence that very few in the world can

afford—but for Wuhan, this moment stands in stark contrast with the situation that its

residents found themselves in less than seven months ago.

The day of January 23 rd , 2020 will forever be seared into my memory. Word about Wuhan’s

complete lockdown reached Shanghai and brought all of our celebrations to a halt as we sat

at the dinner table stacked with empty red packets and abandoned Lunar New Year’s

decorations. Long forgotten were the seasoned dishes that we prepared for our New Year’s

Eve feast with family and friends; our house was emptied of its liveliness, and in its place

came a sense of incredulity, distress, and trepidation for the uncertain future.

Wuhan has had to overcome trials that numerous other Chinese cities were exempt from.

The city of 11 million residents was placed under complete lockdown while strict restrictions

were applied to other cities in Hubei, affecting more than a total of 50 million people.

Within hours of the lockdown’s announcement, movement in and out of Wuhan stopped.

All shops were closed except for those selling food and medicine. Private vehicles were

banned from roads. Some areas limited outings to one family member every two days to

buy necessities, while others required residents to order supplies from couriers. A blanket of

fear fell over the citizens of Wuhan—and within days, the once vibrant city had become akin

to a ghost town.

The strict lockdown measures in the Hubei province came at a tremendous cost for its

residents. Yan Cheng, a 17-year-old with cerebral palsy, passed away in rural Hubei after he

was left at home for six days without care while his relatives were quarantined. In the city of

Shiyan, a young boy was found at home alone, having survived solely on biscuits after his

grandfather died several days earlier.

As Wuhan slowly overcame the pandemic and lifted its 76-day lockdown on April 8, 2020,

the rest of the world was only beginning to feel the effects of COVID-19. As of August 25,

2020, worldwide coronavirus cases have reached 23.8 million, with 16.4 million recoveries

and 817 thousand cumulative deaths. The United States alone count 5.9 million coronavirus

cases, 3.2 million recoveries and a staggering 181 thousand deaths––mounting numbers

that show no intention of slowing down.

But there is another disease on the horizon. Rising COVID-19 cases are accompanied by

growing resentment towards Chinese people and a surge in hate crimes against individuals

of Asian descent. The news that I wake up to every morning is often an amalgam of growing

death tallies and xenophobic incidents targeting Asians, ranging from photos of vandalized

Asian restaurants to videos of Asians violently accosted. In a survey conducted by Pew

Research Center, 4 in 10 US adults say it has become more common for people to express

racist views toward Asians since the pandemic began, while 3 in 10 Asian adults say they

have been subject to slurs or jokes because of their race or ethnicity since the beginning of

the outbreak.

I saw a surge in sinophobic and hateful comments especially after the images from the

Wuhan Water Park electronic music festival surfaced in Western media. The reactions to

those photos were horrifying and disgusting. “Celebrating infecting the whole planet,” one

user commented on @guardian’s post on Instagram. “I hate China so much. Let’s make

them pay for coronavirus and tank their economy,” declared another.

The prevalence of xenophobic and ignorant comments like these enraged me and those in

my community. These comments were, in fact, the main reason why I felt it urgent and

crucial to make an infographic titled “About Those Wuhan Water Park Photos”, which I

shared on my Instagram page @cecilextang. In the thread, I explain the hardships that the

people of Wuhan went through, break down the rules and restrictions of the city’s

lockdown, discuss the US’s response to the pandemic, and finally conclude with a sentiment

echoed by many members of the Asian community: the people of Wuhan are not

responsible for how YOUR country handles COVID-19.

Celebrating the return to normalcy is a luxury that Wuhan is able to indulge in because its

people followed strict but necessary rules and restrictions. In times of crises, spewing blame

and hatred onto a population that has suffered long before anyone else is not a sensible

course of action.

These pictures should not be a pretext for your xenophobia and bigotry to show

through—instead, treat them as a reminder and a symbol of hope that the pandemic can be

overcome by following simple but necessary social distancing rules.















about the author

Cécile Tang / Guest Writer

"Hey everyone! My name is Cécile and I’m an incoming freshman at Brown University. As a Canadian of Chinese descent who grew up in Shanghai, I speak four different languages and care deeply about embracing all facets of my complex cultural identity. I am especially

passionate about bringing new perspectives and narratives into people’s lives. In college, I am hoping to concentrate in comparative literature get involved in a variety of social justice groups."

-Cécile Tang