Reclaiming Grief: On ‘Counter-Commemorations’

Geremie Barmé, renowned China scholar and editor of China Heritage:

On 4 April 2020, the government of China’s People’s Republic held a formal national ritual of mourning for those who had died as a result of the 2019-2020 coronavirus epidemic. The following anonymous work is one of the numerous parallel or ‘counter-commemorations’ that appeared on the Chinese Internet in which people remembered, without government fanfare or ‘messaging’[,] victims of the Covid-19 epidemic that started in Wuhan, Hubei province in December 2019 . . .

Here’s how it begins:

We remember:

That woman who beat a drum on her balcony protesting her illness.


The person who ran after the hearse soulfully crying ‘Mother!’


The fellow who was reading [Francis Fukuyama’s] The Origins of Political Order in a detention centre that had only one toilet for a thousand inmates.


The lorry driver who was left to wander the highways unable to go home.


The person who died seated and they were embraced by family members as they waited for the body to be collected.


That person in enforced isolation who starved to death.


And so on. If this isn’t a litany, I don’t know what is.

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