Wuhan cherry blossoms live stream launched amid coronavirus lockdown

Guo Rui

Chinese state media outlets are live streaming the famed cherry blossoms at Wuhan University for an internet audience, as the city where the coronavirus was first reported remains locked down and closed to visitors.

Xinhua News, the People’s Daily, and other mainstream media have put cameras at scenic spots around the campus, and the live video feed has had millions of hits since it started on Monday. It will be broadcast for 10 days between 10am and 4pm.

Wuhan University also posted the video link to its page on Weibo, China’s Twitter-like microblogging site, with the message: “Today, I will show you the cherry blossoms of cherry road.”

Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province and the epicentre of Covid-19 outbreak that started in December, has been locked down for almost two months.

So far, more than 2,400 people in the city have died after contracting the disease and at least 50,004 have been infected.

Before the outbreak, Wuhan was a tourist spot known for its breakfast culture, hot dry noodles, and its spring blossoms.

Wuhan University is renowned for its cherry trees, which attract large crowds of visitors when they blossom in the spring. In the late 1930s, the occupying Japanese army planted the first batch of cherry blossom trees, and today there are more than 1,000 on campus.

State media’s decision to live stream cherry blossom from Wuhan struck different chords with residents. Photo: Xinhua

The point of the live stream was lost on some Weibo users. “The outbreak isn’t over yet,” one wrote. “People in Hubei are discriminated [against] and mourning the deaths of relatives and loved ones. Now you have started the propaganda of prosperity and happiness [to try to make] us forget our sorrows?”

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But other Wuhan residents were grateful for a chance to see the trees.

Huang Li, a 38-year-old woman living near East Lake, a scenic area popular with visitors, said: “The live streaming of cherry blossoms is amazing. We used to do long-distance running with friends in Wuhan University or around East Lake. Nowadays, my family can only watch the landscape from the balcony.”

“The cherry road was the only way we took every day when I was a student at Wuhan University,” said Ivy Zhu, who was born, raised, and lives in Wuhan. “Every spring we called it ‘cherry suffering’ because there were so many tourists.

“We usually enjoyed the flowers at midnight. The cherry blossom under the street lights in the empty campus was breathtaking,” the 27-year-old said.

“Now I’m too sad to watch the live stream. Wuhan is still under lockdown; people are still stuck at home. Going to the supermarket when the lockdown ends would be extremely delightful, not to mention watching real cherry blossoms.”

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