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Document the Corona virus crisis in Wuhan. Then they disappeared.

Hong Kong – Beige squat truck outside Wuhan Hospital, the side and rear doors are ajar. Fang Bin, a local clothing salesman, was looking inside while walking in the past. He moaned: “Too many dead.” He counted five, six, seven, eight body bags. “This is too much.”

that moment, In a 40-minute video On the outbreak of the coronavirus that devastated China, it pushed Mr. Fang into the Internet’s reputation. Then, after less than two weeks, he disappeared.

Days ago, another prominent blogger in Wuhan, Chen Qiushi, had disappeared. Mr. Chen’s friends and family said they believed he had been quarantined.

Before they disappeared, Mr. Fang And Mr. Chen Dozens of videos were recorded from Wuhan, the unfiltered and often heartbreaking images streamed from the middle of the outbreak. Long lines outside hospitals. Weak patients. Tortured relatives.

Videos of Mr. Fang and Mr. Chen is further evidence of dissatisfaction as the government’s handling of the outbreak has unleashed ordinary Chinese citizens.

“When a sudden crisis occurs, they want to access a broader set of content and reporting,” said Sarah Cook, who studies Chinese media at Freedom House, a US-based pro-democracy research group.

The disappearance of the two men also confirms that the ruling Communist Party has no intention of loosening its grip on freedom of expression.

Chinese leader Xi Jinping said last month that officials need to “strengthen public opinion orientation.” While Chinese social media was filled with fear and sadness, government propaganda media confirmed by Mr. Shi Fixed, and formulated the battle against the outbreak as a form of patriotism and upbeat videos for medical dance.

More than 350 people across China have been punished for “spreading rumors” about the outbreak, According to Chinese human rights defendersCall group.

Mr. Chen, a modern, fast-spoken lawyer from eastern China, was already known online before the outbreak. He traveled to Hong Kong during pro-democracy protests last year and challenged the Chinese authorities’ portrayal of protesters as a mob of riots.

Beijing authorities summoned him to the mainland and deleted his social media accounts, Mr. Chen His followers said later.

But when the coronavirus led officials to shut down the city of Wuhan last month, he rushed to the city with a population of 11 million, citing his duty as a citizen journalist who declared himself. “What kind of reporters are you if you dare not the front line?” He said.

In his videos, which attracted millions of views on YouTube, Mr. Chen interviewed locals who had lost loved ones, photographed a woman who was decomposing as she waited for care and visited an exhibition center that had been converted into a quarantine center.

Banned from WeChat, a major Chinese social media app, due to spreading rumors. But he was adamant that he only shared what he saw or heard.

Over time, Mr. Chen, usually active, began to show pressure. “I am afraid,” He said on January 30. In front of me is the virus. Behind me is the legal and administrative power of China. “

He said that the authorities contacted his parents to request his place. Suddenly torn. After that, he pointed his finger at the camera and said: “I am not afraid of death. Do you think I am afraid of you, Communist Party?”

On February 6, Mr. Chen’s friends lost contact. Xu Xiaodong, a prominent mixed martial practitioner and friend of Mr. Chen, released a video on February 7 saying that his parents had reported that their son had been quarantined, although he did not show symptoms of the disease.

Unlike Mr. Chen, Mr. Fang, a clothing salesman, was somewhat anonymous before the appearance of the SK virus. Much of his YouTube activity included excited videos about traditional Chinese clothing.

But as the outbreak escalated, he began to share videos on empty Wuhan streets and crowded hospitals. They lacked the sparkle of Mr. Chen’s messages, which were often translated and edited tightly. But, as with Mr Chen’s videos, they have shown a man desperate – and defiant.

On February 2, Mr. Fang described how officials confiscated his laptop and interrogated him about snapshots of his body bags. On February 4, a group of people filmed outside his home, saying they were there to ask questions. He pushed them away, and dared them to break his door.

In his latest videos, Mr. Fang switched to politics openly and rarely heard inside China, at least in public places. He was filming from inside his house – he said that he was surrounded by policemen in civilian clothes – and criticized “greed for power” and “tyranny”.

for him The last videoOn February 9, it was only 12 seconds long. She appeared in a sheet reading “All citizens resist and return power to people.”

Despite the global presence of the videos of Mr. Fang and Mr. Chen, it is difficult to know how far they have got inside, said Fang Kitcheng, assistant professor of journalism at the University of Hong Kong, China. Both men relied heavily on YouTube and Twitter, which were banned in China.

But unlike the torrent of sadness and anger on the Internet in response to Dr. Lee’s death, news of Mr. Chen and Mr. Fang’s disappearance was quickly sealed on Chinese social media. Their names showed almost no results on Weibo, a Twitter-like platform in China, on Friday.

However, Ms. Cook said that the importance of the videos of Mr. Chen and Mr. Fang, as well as the reports of professional journalists in Wuhan, should not be underestimated.

She noted the decision of the Chinese authorities this week to reduce the diagnostic requirements for cases of coronavirus infection, which leads to the occurrence A significant jump in the reported injuries, as evidence of their effect.

Mrs. Cook said that this decision may not have been “if you don’t have all these people in Wuhan sending reports that what you hear is underestimated.” “These brave individuals can, under unusual circumstances, push and push the hand of the state.”

Mr. Fang, in One of his recent videosHe was shocked by similar feelings. He thanked his viewers, who said he had invited him non-stop to send support.

He said about himself: “A person, just an ordinary person, a ridiculous person,” who lifted the cap for a second. “

Yen Yu contributed to the reporting.

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