The Torturous Journey Home for 5 Million ‘Homeless’ Wuhan People

“The Torturous Journey Home for 5 Million ‘Homeless’ Wuhan People,” published in The National Interest on February 5, 2020

On January 28, a woman from Wuhan was waiting for her flight from Japan back to China when she became aware of an escalating conflict between the passengers hailing from Shanghai and those hailing from Wuhan and Hubei province. A Shanghai passenger, having overheard someone speaking in Wuhan dialect, became concerned about the potential spread of coronavirus. Another Shanghai passenger claimed to have seen one of the Wuhan passengers taking anti-fever medications. The standoff received widespread attention around China. Even Wuhan people outside of Wuhan are not immune from the consequences of the epidemic that started in their city and has now infected more than 20,000 people and killed more than 400.

Eventually, China Southern Airlines flight CZ380, landed seven hours later in Shanghai, after the Shanghai municipal government had stepped in to help resolve the situation. The 16 Wuhan residents were stuck together in the back of the plane and greeted by health professionals to be put into isolation for 14 days.

The Weibo post by Wuhan passenger ‘Pomello’ about the incident, in which she accused the angry Shanghai passengers of not acting like compatriots, went viral, generating 2.1 million likes and 107,000 comments.

While residents of Wuhan have been blocked from leaving the city ever since it was quarantined on January 23, the approximately 5 million Wuhan locals who were stuck outside of Wuhan when the quarantine was implemented face their own unique challenges. They have been turned away from hotels, shunned by peers, and put into lockdown by local governments.

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