The recent death of Wuhan doctor turned whistleblower Li Wenliang sparked outrage across China and the rest of the world. Activists and independent journalists trapped in the quarantine zones say that Li could have prevented the current outbreak if the government had listened to him instead of attempting to cover it up.
In the days after his death, Chinese social media platforms were filled will demands for freedom of speech as well as suggestions that the government cover-up allowed the illness to spread. Evidence of crackdowns have also spread online, with footage of Chinese police in medical gear forcibly removing people from their homes appearing on social media.
In the chaos of the past week, lawyer and citizen journalist Chen Qiushi, who was doing very dangerous reporting from the quarantine zone in Wuhan, has gone missing, and many of his loved ones say that he was captured by the Chinese government. Chen was active on social media and was keeping in regular contact with his friends until Thursday when he went silent and could no longer be reached.
Chen was among numerous citizen journalists contradicting the official narrative that was coming from Bejing while reporting independently from Wuhan. Chen’s reporting showed that the virus appeared to be much worse than was being suggested by official sources. Chen showed the world the overcrowded hospitals and heavy-handed tactics being used by police.
“I’m scared, I have the virus in front of me and behind me China’s law enforcement,” Chen said in one of his last videos that was recorded in a hotel room on January 30. In the same video he revealed that his parents back home in Qingdao were already being harassed by authorities.