Despite the rage in social networks against the Chinese government for silencing the doctor who alerted the coronavirus, or precisely because of it, censorship continues to eliminate negative information about the epidemic that flows through the internet. After several weeks in which more criticism was allowed, the authoritarian regime of the Communist Party has again imposed strict control alarmed by the outrage that unleashed the death of ophthalmologist Li Wenliang. Forced to retract by the police when he notified in December of the appearance in Wuhan of a new disease similar to SARS, his case is the most notorious, but not the only one.
Since last week, two activists who have dedicated themselves to documenting the situation in that city have disappeared, epicenter of the pneumonia epidemic that has already infected more than 55,000 people and killed 1,382 in China, plus three abroad.
One of them is Chen Qiushi, a young human rights lawyer and blogger famous in Chinese activism because he was reporting on Hong Kong protests last year. Upon his return to mainland China, the Police interrogated him and the censorship closed his accounts on social networks, where he had more than 700,000 followers. Without being intimidated by this persecution, in October he opened a YouTube channel that is already followed by more than 400,000 subscribers although it is blocked and can only be accessed with a VPN (connection to a server abroad). With the name @ chenqiushi404, in reference to the error number that jumps in China when trying to open a banned page, in the also censored Twitter has more than 267,000 followers.
In late January, Chen traveled to Wuhan to tell what life was like under quarantine and posted numerous videos of crowded hospitals and isolation centers where the sick are confined. “I will use my camera to document what is happening and I promise not to hide the truth,” he promised in his dramatic videos. But on February 6 he disappeared and his mother and one of his friends, who manages his Twitter account, believe he has been quarantined by the authorities to silence him.
The same fate seems to have run Fang Bin, another “citizen journalist” from Wuhan who has also been reporting on hospital chaos. His name became relevant when, on February 1, he posted a video on YouTube where eight corpses were stacked in the minibus of a funeral home at the gates of Hospital Number 5. Secretly recording with his mobile, he walked through the corridors where some patients were waiting on a stretcher and entered a pavilion where a man was crying in dismay at the death of his father, who had just died before him. In another room he asked the doctors if the medications were free, as promised by the Government, and the first response he received was a laugh. Then they told him to go to another hospital.
After spreading these images on the internet, the police showed up that night at his house and arrested him. Although two computers were confiscated, they let him go, but they sent him a quarantine order because he entered the hospital and was in contact with the sick. After being released, Fang told him, who even recorded the moment of arrest. Confident, he attributed his release to the fame he had achieved throughout the world and continued with his work collecting with his mobile the reality of Wuhan under the coronavirus. But on the 9th he published a video in which, exalted, he denounced that “in this brutal and evil regime, no one is safe.” Then it disappeared. .