Three whistleblowers who wanted to show the ‘truth’ of Wuhan have still not been seen for two months.
Chen Qiushi, Fang Bin and Li Zehua shared dramatic pictures and videos from inside the quarantined city – the source of the coronavirus pandemic.
All three citizen journalists were determined to expose what they could but their whereabouts have been a mystery since February.
Their popular accounts on YouTube – which is banned in mainland China but can still be accessed through a virtual private network (VPN) – have all gone quiet, and the Chinese authorities have not commented on what has happened to them.
Wuhan businessman Fang disappeared after releasing a video claiming to show a pile of bodies in a minibus outside a hospital.
His short video also appears to show medics in hazmat suits attempting to treat patients as others wait moaning in pain.
He then approaches one of the medics, asking: ‘So many people just died? When did this happen? Yesterday? There are so many bodies.’
The footage surfaced after being shared by Chinese journalist Jennifer Zeng on Twitter.
Fang claimed officers barged into his home and took him away after he posted the video on February 1.
He was released but his account went silent on February 9 after he posted a short video with the words ‘all people revolt – hand the power of the government back to the people’.
Activist Chen, 34, is a human rights lawyer turned video journalist who arrived in Wuhan before the city went into lockdown.
Chen said his coverage during the Hong Kong protests in August led to him being harassed by the authorities, who reportedly deleted his social media accounts when he returned to mainland China.
In his first YouTube video from Wuhan, he said: ‘I will use my camera to document what is really happening. I promise I won’t cover up the truth.’
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One of his reports claimed to show a woman sitting next to a dead relative in a wheelchair as she tries to call her family on the phone.
But then it all went quiet and Chen has not been heard from since February 6. The last post on his Twitter account, which the BBC reports is managed by a friend, calls for his safe return: ‘Who can tell us where and how Chen Qiushi is right now?
‘When will anyone get to speak with him again? Chen Qiushi has been out of contact for 68 days after covering coronavirus in Wuhan. Please save him!!!’
Journalist Li Zehua, 25, used to work for the state broadcaster CCTV and was reporting from Wuhan independently.
According to Radio Free Asia (RFA), Li was targeted after visiting the Wuhan Institute of Virology, an extremely sensitive venue for the Chinese authorities.
Conspiracy theories have suggested the killer virus originated from the institute. Li has not been seen since February 26.
Earlier this month, US congressman Jim Banks called on the government to urge China to investigate the disappearance of the three Chinese citizen journalists.
‘All three of these men understood the personal risk associated with independently reporting on coronavirus in China, but they did it anyway,’ Banks wrote, alleging the Chinese government ‘imprisoned them – or worse.’
The virus first emerged in Wuhan in late December, sickening tens of thousands and upending life in the industrial city of 11 million people in central China.
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