After whistleblower doctor’s death, journalist reporting on coronavirus goes missing in China

As resentment against the Chinese government grows exponentially over its handling of the coronavirus outbreak, reports have emerged of a citizen journalist who was reporting from Wuhan going missing.

Chinese citizen journalist Chen Qiushi, who has been reporting on the coronavirus epidemic from the epicentre city Wuhan, has been missing since Thursday.

Chen’s ground reporting had helped lift the veil on the ground situation in China, a nation that maintains iron-clad control on reportage.

Defying government censorship laws, Chen had been posting regular broadcasts on the situation in Wuhan, which has been placed under lockdown due to the coronavirus outbreak.

According to reports, Chen’s family members have claimed that he went to a hospital with his friends on Thursday but never returned.

In a video posted on Chen’s Twitter account, his mother said, “I am Chen Qiushi’s mother. Please, online friends and especially those in Wuhan, please help me and find Chen Qiushi and find out what happened to him.”

A friend, Xu Xiaodong, has claimed that Chen had been forcibly quarantined by authorities. However, the cause for alarm was the fact that his phone remained unreachable. Those quarantined have been typically allowed to use their phones.

A symbol of civilian activism, Chen bypassed government bans on Western social media to post videos and updates on platforms like YouTube and Twitter. He has a sizeable following on both platforms too — 253k and 439k respectively.

His updates came despite China’s internet watchdog clamping down on social platforms Weibo, WeChat and Douyin.

Incidentally, Chen’s disappearance came on the same day as the death of Wuhan ophthalmologist Li Wenliang — who first blew the lid on the coronavirus outbreak.

Li was the first to report about the virus way back in December last year when it first emerged in Wuhan, the provincial capital of China’s central Hubei province.

He died last Thursday after he was infected by the coronavirus.

READ | Chinese doctor who first found out about coronavirus was censored. Now, he’s dead due to virus

After Li’s death and Chen’s disappearance, anger has grown in China over the government handling of the coronavirus outbreak.

Citizens took to social media to express their rage against a system prioritising its image over information dissemination.

“Chen Qiushi cannot become another Li Wenliang! China must let people speak out,” one internet user wrote on Weibo. “There are no superheroes in this world, just regular people who stand up,” said another.

Chen had been reporting from hospitals and public places in Wuhan since January 23, three days after China officially called a state of emergency over coronavirus.

He had alleged getting calls from local authorities tracking his whereabouts. He had also been detained previously.

In a declaration of his commitment to truth, Chen said in one video, “I am afraid. In front of me is disease. Behind me is China’s legal and administrative power. But as long as I am alive I will speak about what I have seen and what I have heard. I am not afraid of dying. Why should I be afraid of you, the Communist Party?”

Meanwhile, the death toll in China’s coronavirus outbreak has gone up to 908 with 97 new fatalities reported mostly in the worst-affected Hubei province and the confirmed cases of infection crossing 40,000, Chinese health officials said on Monday, as a team of international experts led by the WHO is set to arrive in Beijing to help contain the epidemic.


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