Citizen journalist exposing horrific condition of patients in Wuhan vanishes, 'quarantined', claim authorities

Chen Qiushi has not been seen or heard from since February 4 and his family now fear for his safety

                            Citizen journalist exposing horrific condition of patients in Wuhan vanishes, 'quarantined', claim authorities
(Getty Images)

A lawyer-turned-citizen journalist who was reporting on the coronavirus from the Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicenter of the epidemic, has been “forcibly quarantined”, friends and family claim.

Chen Qiushi, who had been posting videos from Wuhan highlighting the crisis in the city since January 24, the day after Wuhan was put under lockdown, was last heard from around 7 pm local time on Tuesday, February 4.

His disappearance has been confirmed by his mother, who posted a video message on a Twitter page being run on her son’s behalf — while the social media platform is banned in China, it can be accessed by bypassing the firewalls. “I’m here to beg everyone online, especially friends in Wuhan to help find Qiushi, find out what’s going on with him,” she said.

Later that same evening, Xu Xiaodong, a renowned MMA fighter, and a friend of Qiushi, played a message from Qiushi's mother during a live broadcast.

“In the last few hours the Qingdao public security officers and state security officers … notified Qiushi’s parents that he has already been detained in the name of quarantine. Qiushi’s mother immediately asked them where and when he was taken away, they declined to say,” he revealed.

He also said that, based on his interactions with Qiushi and the testimony of those on the ground, Qiushi had been in good health and had reportedly been planning to visit Fang Ceng shelter hospital before he went missing.

Qiushi had questioned the way patients were being treated in Wuhan (Getty Images)

Qiushi had been exposing the horrific conditions for patients in Wuhan in the days leading up to his disappearance and had visited major hospitals, funeral homes, and residential areas in the city.

"It's easy to put 1,000 beds in the stadium, but how do 1,000 people eat together?" one of his posts on social media criticizing the treatment of patients read. "How to bathe, How to go to the toilet? "

"Do they need to wear a mask 24 hours? Is there enough oxygen, a ventilator, and when will the specific medicine be available? This problem has troubled me for several days! Other patients are frail and need family care. ~ Every step is very difficult right now," he had gone on to say.

He had also published a video showing rows of beds and stacked supplies inside the Wuhan square cabin hospital, writing, "Visiting this under construction. Local doctors said that it was more like a battlefield hospital or a temporary shelter."

Just before he had disappeared, he had expressed fear for his life. “I’m scared, I have the virus in front of me and behind me China’s law enforcement,” he said in a video recorded on January 30. “But I will keep my spirits up, as long as I’m alive and in this city, I will continue my reports”.

He's not the first citizen journalist that the Chinese government has seemingly tried to silence. Fang Bin, who had published videos of bodies being loaded into buses, had been similarly apprehended but released following online outcry.

Qiushi's disappearance also follows shortly after the death of Li Wenliang, a 34-year-old ophthalmologist who worked at the Wuhan Central Hospital and had been among those who broke the news of the threat of the coronavirus even before it became an epidemic.

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