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The Chinese Vloggers Documenting The Coronavirus Outbreak Have Vanished

Xiao Yijiu/Xinhua via AP

From day one, you knew they were lying. The Chinese figures on the coronavirus are garbage. This is an authoritarian state. They monitor most, if not all, internet communications coming in and out of the country. This is a very ethnocentric nation. National pride is major—and the state being unable to contain a viral outbreak and needing Western help is a blow to that mindset. So, it shouldn’t shock us, sadly, that the two brave Chinese vloggers who documented the outbreak have disappeared. One of them is said to have been forced into quarantine protocols by the government, but who knows (via NYT):

 The beige van squatted outside of a Wuhan hospital, its side and back doors ajar. Fang Bin, a local clothing salesman, peered inside as he walked past. He groaned: “So many dead.” He counted five, six, seven, eight body bags. “This is too many.”  

That moment, in a 40-minute video about the coronavirus outbreak that has devastated China, propelled Mr. Fang to internet fame. Then, less than two weeks later, he disappeared.

Days earlier, another prominent video blogger in Wuhan, Chen Qiushi, had also gone missing. Mr. Chen’s friends and family said they believed he had been forcibly quarantined.

Before their disappearances, Mr. Fang and Mr. Chen had recorded dozens of videos from Wuhan, streaming unfiltered and often heartbreaking images from the center of the outbreak. Long lines outside hospitals. Feeble patients. Agonized relatives. 


China’s leader, Xi Jinping, said last month that officials needed to “strengthen the guidance of public opinion.” While Chinese social media has overflowed with fear and grief, state propaganda outlets have emphasized Mr. Xi’s steady hand, framed the fight against the outbreak as a form of patriotism and shared upbeat videos of medical workers dancing.

The Times added that Chen Qiushi is no stranger to reporting on things that would rankle Chinese authorities. He had covered the Honk Kong's pro-democracy activists. The publication also noted that when the Wuhan outbreak erupted, he had interviewed locals waiting for care, capturing on-the-ground footage of what conditions were really like. The newspaper noted that Fang Bin had his laptop seized by Chinese authorities, and he too had also captured images of body bags. 

“All citizens resist, hand power back to the people,” he said in his final video.

Never dismiss the power of a citizen journalist. As long as you have a phone, you can be a journalist. You can document the wrongdoings of government. And these two men appear to have made an impact, despite the Chinese government scrubbing them out of existence on state-based social media platforms, as the Times noted that the government had “loosen diagnostic requirements for coronavirus cases.” This led to a better gauge on how many have been infected, which is rapidly approaching 100,000—and even that number is suspect due to the initial fudging of the numbers. Oh, did we forget to mention that 5 million left Wuhan before it was locked down under quarantine protocols? This disease has now killed more people than SARS.  

The World Health Organization says that 71,000 people have been infected, with 1,700 dying from the virus. As you probably know, the real number is probably much greater than that. 


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