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
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."