This article was first published in ChinaChange website
Fang Bin (方斌) is a middle-aged man and a Wuhan native. His friends told China Change that he used to run an interior design business in Beijing, but moved back to Wuhan some time ago and started a garment business specializing in “Han clothes” (汉服), but it’s going pretty badly. When the lockdown on the city was announced about 10 days ago, Fang Bin set up a WeChat group called “The Self-Salvation of the People” (全民自救), where he started posting about life in the city.
Since January 25, the Chinese New Year’s Day, he has been driving around the city every day. He went to hospitals and the Red Cross; he tried to go take a look at one of the city’s crematoriums but was unable to get a freeway pass. On January 31, he drove around the infamous Huanan wet market, now shut down, and showed neighborhoods that are entirely blockaded for being “heavily stricken areas” (重灾区).
On February 1, he visited four large hospitals: Hankou Hospital (汉口医院), Wuhan Union Hospital (协和医院), Tongji Hospital (同济医院), and the Fifth Hospital (第五医院). His video clips brought to our view the crowded hospital halls and hallways, frantic doctors and nurses, men and women receiving IVs in the waiting room, lying on beds, in the hallways, or even on the floor… At the Fifth Hospital, he happened to see a funeral van from a funeral collecting bodies and he counted eight.
He posted what he saw during the day on social media, and it went viral. A week ago, friends set up a YouTube channel for him, but his clips have been taken far and wide by others.
The “The Self-Salvation of the People,” he mulled in a January 31 clip, “is a campaign to know the truth, a campaign for openness and transparency.”
Around 7 that evening, five or six men in full virus protection gown showed up at Fang Bin’s door, claiming that they came from the Center for Disease Control. After some wrangling, they managed to force their way into his home. They took his laptop and his cellphones, and then took him to a far-away police station, Hanyang Si’xin Police Station (汉阳四新派出所). There he was questioned, threatened, and made to sign an interrogation report. He was reprimanded for “igniting a nuclear bomb” and for not reporting “positive things.” Around midnight, he said, the police suddenly became nice to him. It turned out that by then his video clips were all over the internet, on WeChat, Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, and whatnot. Friends and lawyers were calling every CDC station looking for him. Around 1 a.m. on February 2, the police let him go. Out in the night, far away from home, he couldn’t find a taxi. He managed to find a bike and rode three hours to get home. He described the night in a 4-minute video.
Below are Fang Bin’s clips taken on February 1. We’ve transcribed and translated them for your convenience.
Hello everyone, I am Fang Bin. Today is February 1. Did I get my mask on right this time? The doctor told me to push the upper wire down. There’s no one out in the streets in this neighborhood, but the birds are still flying, and it’s a clear day. It’s been reported that the hospitals are running low on supplies, they don’t have enough medical equipment. And then it’s said that lots of donated supplies are being stored over at the Wuhan International Expo Center in Hanyang, with nobody to transport it. Is that true? Let’s go have a look.
I’m now at the Houhu, in eastern Wuhan. The Expo Center is in the west.
What are things like in the hospitals after all this time? I’m going to have a look.
Fang Bin: “What’s up? How do I get out? Just push it? Thanks!”
You’ve seen how I’ve been doing interviews on the frontlines these days, right? Lots of people have supported me, some even donated money, I’m quite touched. [They say], “I’ll give you money, Fang Bin.” They straight-up give money. I accept these donations since it’s their kind intention, right? After all, since I’m out there doing interviews, I still have to eat and drink and get places. Gas isn’t free. So I have my expenses. Thanks for the donations, thanks, everyone.
So I’ll go to a few hospitals now. (Gets in a car)
I’ve arrived at the Hankou Hospital. People say I should shoot the video horizontally. I’ve already been to Hankou Hospital four or five times. There were lots of people there those times, you know. But I hear that now the medical staff go directly to the patients, and only bring them to the hospital when their cases are confirmed, so the hospitals aren’t as crowded. Let’s see if there are really fewer people here now. Let’s see if those who have registered, who want to see if they got the virus or not, if they’re getting checked at home and going to the hospital only when the doctors think they got it.
Is that the way it works? Let’s go in and see.
There’s still a ton of people here. It’s packed even after they dispersed the check-ups. Tons of people.
(Camera pans across a crowded hall.)
(People sitting in waiting area receiving IV drips)
They’re just lying on the stools here.
Fang Bin: “What are you being injected with?”
Man: “I don’t know.”
“You don’t know what it is?”
They’re all getting IVs, look around. Lots of people.
Still so many people. Hello, I’m Fang Bin. Today is February 1. There’s still quite a few people at Hankou Hospital.
(Background chatter, moaning, sobbing)
These poor people, how pitiful. Really, I feel sorry for them.
Woman: This one is already dead.
He’s really dead. It’s so sad, they’re all sobbing there. It’s terrible.
Hello, I’m Fang Bin. Today it’s February 1, 11 a.m. I’ve just left Hankou Hospital. I didn’t expect there to be so many people at a big hospital like this, but it was still packed. I was just in there, there were many people inside lying on the ground, some in really bad shape, one person dead. Dead in the hallway. The doctor told me to stop looking around, maybe she was scared I’d get infected, so she told me to leave immediately. They’re getting ready to carry him out now. They’re going to send him to the crematorium.
There’s a problem that the hospitals have now, which is that no one from the media comes here to report. I’m the only one who goes to the hospitals, the so-called front line…
When you think about it, it’s really something … but those media outlets, the ones with serious funding, like Xinhua and the People’s Daily, they have so much money, CCTV, Hubei Television, Wuhan Television, they have so much funding, why don’t they go do reporting at the hospitals? Why don’t they report the true situation?
Nobody you care about has died, only the common people have died, who cares if they die! Why don’t you go to the front line in the hospitals and report on things? You can come to report wearing protective gear, right? You’ll be completely safe, so why don’t you come?
This is what things are like. This is what things are for the nurses doing real work in the hospitals, these doctors, these patients, these suffering families. Dangit, what conscience do you media have?
This is the situation at Hankou Hospital. In a while, I’ll go see what things are like at Union Hospital. I’ve heard Union Hospital doesn’t admit [coronavirus] patients, last time they said they don’t admit people with a fever, they don’t do outpatient service. I’ve been to Union Hospital before the lockdown. That time there were a lot of people with fevers getting outpatient service, but I heard a lot of doctors started getting infected, so they stopped. I don’t know what things are like at Union Hospital now, anyway let’s go back for another visit.
And at the Fifth Hospital, things are serious there too, some of the doctors here have died. But to get there I have to cross the Han River, which I’m not sure is possible now. I have to cross the river if I want to get to the Expo Center as well. So let’s just start in that direction. Nobody will give me a movement pass anyway. The city is under lockdown and I don’t have a pass.
Those reporters, what Xinhua, what CCTV, Hubei Television, they’ve got movement passes, why don’t they use them? What are they doing?!
(Driving the car) I’ll take off then, time to go to Union Hospital.
Hello everyone, I’ve gotten to Union Hospital. At the gate there is a banner for the donated supplies. Union Hospital is quite large.
I originally saw a notice saying that Union Hospital doesn’t admit normal patients anymore, that the hospital is locked.
It says outpatient fever treatment, there’s an arrow, so I’ll follow it. The hospital is locked.
This hospital is huge. I came here on the 21st, before the lockdown, there were tons of people in the outpatient fever treatment center. This is the main building, the outpatient service center is locked, you can’t go in. I see the arrow pointing to the fever treatment center, are they seeing patients there? Union Hospital is so huge, it takes forever to get anymore. It’s the same treatment center, go this way.
(Intercom: The hospital is an important place for saving people. Disturbing the medical system’s normal operation or threatening the security of health workers is prohibited …)
This is the fever treatment center, it’s open.
There was only a small center here. It feels a lot bigger inside now than the first time I came here. There was only one outpatient service center, now it’s been expanded into the lounge.
This is how the outpatient center looks, it’s quite big now. Union Hospital took the outpatient center from before the lockdown, the small one, and expanded it to annex the lounge. It’s still packed with people. The confirmed cases go into the hospital for treatment. I can’t go in there now. I can only have a look at the outpatient center. The hospital is closed to outsiders.
Still lots of people, but I didn’t see a single person from the media doing interviews. I’ll go visit some other hospitals.
There’s a ton of people here. I was just at Union Hospital. Now I’m at Tongji Hospital. Let’s see what it’s like here.
（A hall of patients getting drips）
So many people here at Tongji.
（Hospital hallway. People talking.）
It’s packed. I can’t get into the consulting room.
The Mountains and Rivers of Wuhan; on Way to the Fifth Hospital
Hi Everyone. I just came out of Tongji Hospital. Like the other hospitals, it is very crowded too. The outpatient clinic is completely full, packed with people. They are there probably to get tested. If they are all right, they go home; if infected, they get admitted into the hospital.
The Union and Tongji are the two biggest hospitals in Wuhan. I can’t go into the wards, not allowed.
This is the Han River (汉江). As I said before, Wuhan is uniquely endowed by nature. That bridge over the Han River is called Yuehu Bridge (月湖桥), the oldest bridge over the river. Do you see? The Turtle Mountain (龟山). There are two mountains in Wuchang (武昌) and Hankou (汉口). One is the Turtle Mountain, and the other is the Snake Mountain (蛇山). The Han River runs into the Yangtze River, and where I’m pointing is the intersection of Han River and Yangtze River, which divides Wuhan into three parts. I’m crossing the bridge to Hanyang.
There are police on the way. I don’t know if the No. 1 Bridge of Han River has been sealed or not. Now the Yuehu Bridge is open, no problem. Once in Hanyang, I’ll see if I can drive further.
I’m going to the Fifth Hospital first. Then I will go to the International Expo Center. As long as the roads are open, I will go. Now I’m in Hanyang, I’ll just drive in that direction.
Arriving at the Fifth Hospital
I’m at the Fifth Hospital. Hi everyone, I’m Fang Bin. Today is February 1, a couple of minutes past noon. (A parked van) This is the van of Wuchang Funeral Home. Oh no, three dead. Body bags, one for each body. One, two, three, four. So terrifying. There are three bagged bodies. Three bodies.
Man: Yes, three.
Fang Bin: Three bodies.
Man: They reported only dozens of deaths, but just here alone, there are three. Who knows how many are dying every day?
Fang Bin to the man: Do you not dare to go in? Go in.
There are so many people!
Didn’t they say the treatment is free? Why are they charging you? On TV it was announced that it’s free.
Man: TV says Jinyintang Hospital (金银潭医院) is free.
TV says Jinyintang Hospital is free. Not here. Why? Even if they are paying for it, people are still having trouble seeing a doctor.
Why is he in the hallway? No bed available?
Voice: No bed available.
No bed available. People are lying on the floor in the hallway.
I went in and saw the outpatient clinic. But they won’t let me get into the wards.
I just showed you the body bags of Wuchang Funeral Home. Now there are more. There were three, now let me count the bags. One, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight. Eight.
So many. All dead. These are people who died yesterday, right? Damn, so many dead.
This is the wards, and I can’t get into.
They are still moving bodies.
Inside here, there is an outpatient clinic.
(Moaning.) “I’m dying.”
“Who is he?”
Man: “Father. My father.”
He’s gone. No more sound. No more vital signs. This one is dead too. Dead. Another one. His son couldn’t catch his breath anymore.
There were three dead just moments ago. What time is it? Five minutes later, now there are eight. Eight already. There is another one, two.
Man: Are there more bodies inside?
Fang Bin: There are more. So many. Too many. They are still moving them. Eight bodies. There are more dying inside. I just counted again: eight. Eight bodies.
(Speaking to a man): “You go take a count. You wouldn’t dare? Are you scared? Eight bodies. One more is dying inside.
Man: Did you hear? The man next to me said that they have taken out eight bodies.
Fang Bin: A man is dying. His son is crying. Go in to see, but you are scared, right?”
Man: I’m scared.
Fang Bin: Well, that’s that. You are not as daring as I am.
Man: How many bodies are they going to get in this one van?
Fang Bin: All that is dead. If there are 100, they will take away 100. Who knows? If there are 5, they will take 5. We don’t know how many.
In any case, there are eight here. This is so terrible!
Man: Get your temperature taken. Get your temperature taken.
Fang Bin: I shot those videos just today, and you are looking for me already?
Man: Get your temperature taken. Get your temperature taken.
Fang Bin: What temperature? I don’t have a temperature.
Man: We can’t be sure.
Fang Bin: Who are you? Tell me who you are.
Man: Open the door.
Fang Bin: You have to tell me who you are.
Man: You will know when you open the door. Open the door so we can show you.
Fang Bin: No. I don’t have a temperature.
Man: We are concerned.
Fang Bin: What concern?
Man: You have been to the hospitals. We are concerned that you did not have sufficient protection.
Fang Bin: I’ve been to hospitals, but why was my protection not sufficient? What if I don’t have a temperature？
Man: If you don’t have a temperature, we will let you go, how about that?
Fang Bin: How do I know you won’t quarantine me telling me I have a fever while I don’t?
Man: You’ve been to dangerous places. First of all, we must find out whether you are infected or not, right?
Fang Bin: If I don’t have a temperature, will you quarantine me for this reason?
Man: We won’t. We won’t.
Fang Bin: If you quarantine me for my hospital visits, everyone will believe that you have detained me for speaking and spreading the truth. What’s your name?
Man: What does it have to do with my name?
Fang Bin: What’s your affiliation?
Man: We are people on official duty.
Fang Bin: People on official duty have to have names and affiliations.
Man: You need to cooperate. Just cooperate.
Fang Bin: How about you show me a search warrant? Get a search warrant. The law requires it, and we will abide by the law. I’m not sick. I will cooperate if you have a search warrant. Get a search warrant.
Man: We are from the Center for Disease Control.
Fang Bin: Center for Disease Control…. You have to show me a search warrant. A search warrant will do. You can’t just quarantine me just this. Do you understand?
Man: You have been to such dangerous places, and it’s possible that you’ve been infected.
Fang Bin: I’m not. My temperature is normal.
Man: It could have a 14-day incubation period, do you know that?
Fang Bin: I’m normal.
Man: The incubation period is 14 days.
Fang Bin: But my temperature is normal.
Man: You are a hazard to others, do you know that?
Fang Bin: My temperature is normal.
Man: The Criminal Law has an article, do you know?
Fang Bin: I don’t have a temperature.
Man: If you passed on your disease to others…
Fang Bin: I’m not sick, and my temperature is normal. You get a search warrant, and I’ll stop arguing with you. If you are law enforcement, you get a search warrant, and we will both abide by the law. This is a private home, and you can’t just break in. I’m protected by the law, all right?
Man: There is no such thing as breaking in.
Fang Bin: Stop, don’t come closer.
Man: You can’t come up with these excuses.
(Loud noises. Men break into Fang Bin’s home.)