Published On: Fri, Feb 14th, 2020

Coronavirus: Why have two correspondents in Wuhan vanished?

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They are citizen journalists, wanting to provide the “truth” of what is happening in Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus outbreak in China.

They posted videos online, shared pictures and dramatic stories from inside the quarantined city that has been virtually cut off from the rest of the country.

Now, they are nowhere to be found.

Fang Bin and Chen Qiushi were both determined to share what they could about the crisis, reporting from Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province, and sending what they found out into the world.

As a result, they racked up thousands of views on their videos. But their channels have now gone quiet, and those who followed them online fear they may have disappeared for good.

What do we know about Fang Bin?

Wuhan businessman Fang Bin began posting videos about the outbreak to “report on the actual situation here”, promising to “do his best” in the reporting.

He uploaded his first video on 25 January to YouTube, which is banned in China but accessible through virtual private networks (VPN).

His first few videos – mostly featuring him driving around the city and showing the situation in different places – managed slightly more than 1,000 views.

Then on 1 February he filmed a video which got people to sit up and take notice. The clip, which has been viewed almost 200,000 times, appears to show eight corpses piled in a minibus outside a hospital in Wuhan.

Fang alleges that police barged into his home on that same night and interrogated him about his videos. He was taken away, warned, but eventually released.

But on 9 February, he posted a 13-second video with the words “all people revolt – hand the power of the government back to the people”.

After that, the account went silent.

What do we know about Chen Qiushi?

Chen, a former human rights lawyer turned video journalist, was already relatively well known in the activist space. He built his reputation through his coverage of the Hong Kong protests last August.

That coverage, he later alleged, led to him being harassed and ultimately muzzled by Chinese authorities following his return to the mainland. His Chinese social media accounts, which reportedly had a following of more than 700,000, were deleted.

But he could not be kept quiet.

In October, he created a YouTube account which now has some 400,000 subscribers. He also has over 265,000 followers on Twitter.

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