The citizen journalist who shattered the carefully crafted image portrayed by the Chinese government about the coronavirus epidemic with his short videos on social media has disappeared, prompting concerns from around the world
Fang Bin, a local clothing salesman, has been missing for almost two weeks after being arrested for posting videos showing piles of corpses of people who died from the highly contagious coronavirus earlier this year.
#FangBin has become the latest whistleblower to be silenced in China, after his video of corpses in #Wuhan went viral. Also missing is #ChenQiushi, who was last seen on Thursday. https://t.co/4FtsEf2IUM
— David Gilbert (@daithaigilbert) February 10, 2020
His disappearance prompted a call on social media to support the whistleblower who together with Chen Qiushi, a former human rights lawyer, showed a very different picture to the polished image of control issued by the Chinese government. Quishi too has gone missing.
It is estimated that more than 1,000 people have died and another 42,000 have fallen sick to the virus that originated from the city of Wuhan in China.
The Chinese government quickly set its propaganda machine into motion and portrayed the outbreak as a form of patriotism, sharing upbeat videos of medical staff dancing.
The Chinese police interrogated Bin after he posted the first video and warned him not to publish anything else. But he continued to do so and barricaded himself in his apartment. Eventually, Chinese firefighters broke down his front door and he was arrested by the police.
His videos and posts were taken down from Chinese social media but are still available on YouTube and Facebook.
Just days before he was taken into custody, Fang posted a video saying that the only reason authorities have not broken down his door is the fact that his videos had attracted too much attention.
He told his followers he would post a video every morning to show he was safe. No video has been posted for a week.
There was also a huge outpouring of grief on social media for the Chinese doctor who tried to warn the authorities about the coronavirus back in early December. Li Wenliang noticed test results that showed that seven patients from a local market had been diagnosed with an unknown illness that looked a lot like SARS, the virus that killed 774 people across Asia in 2003.
Tie his name to your memory of this cruelly ridiculous time
— Shawn Yuan (@shawnxyny) February 6, 2020
He tried to warn others in a private messaging group but ended up being interrogated by the police who warned him to stop spreading rumours. He was also forced to sign a statement that he had committed a “misdemeanour” and that he would not commit further “unlawful acts”.
Li died after he contracted the virus while treating patients at a hospital.
According to Reporters Without Borders, China has the highest number of citizen journalists detained last year – 39. This number does not include Fang.