A Chinese lawyer and citizen journalist goes missing after posting on his social media account critical reporting from Wuhan, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak.
The news comes days after the death of another whistleblower doctor Wuhan, Li Wenliang, who was reprimanded by police for first spreading news of the deadly outbreak.
Chen Qiushi, 34-year-old citizen journalist, went missing on Thursday evening and his friends and family later found out from the police that he had been forced into quarantine.
According to reports in CNN, Chen arrived in Wuhan on January 24, a day after the state-imposed lockdown, and visited overflowing hospitals, funeral parlors and makeshift isolation wards to do on-the-ground reporting. He uploaded videos about the grim reality in the crisis-hit Wuhan on his Weibo account on which he had over 740,000 followers previously.
While his Twitter account has nearly 250,000 followers and YouTube has more than 430,000 subscribers, but both these social media platforms are banned in China. Chen’s Weibo account was deactivated by Chinese officials after he reported on peaceful protests in Hong Kong in 2019.
His disappearance and his family’s revelation that he is forced into quarantine, has gained traction on Weibo, with many pleading for his release. ‘Hope the government can treat Chen Qiushi in a fair and just way’, one user wrote. Another user wrote: ‘We can no longer afford a second Li Wenliang!’
The missing citizen journalist’s friends and family he stopped answering calls early Thursday evening, and are worried for his physical safety and fear he could get infected by coronavirus.
Chen’s mother posted a video message on his Twitter page saying her son had disappeared. The worried mother says in the video: “I’m here to beg everyone online, especially friends in Wuhan to help find Qiushi, find out what’s going on with him.”
While Chen’s close friend, Xu Xiaodong, a mixed martial artist, said Chen was in good health prior to his disappearance. However, both the Wuhan and Qingdao city police said they had no information about Chen when contacted by CNN.
“We’re worried for his physical safety but also worried that while he’s missing he might get infected by the virus,” said a friend who had been authorized by Chen to take over his Twitter account should he disappear.