Last update: May 01, 2023, 6:13 p.m. IST
Chinese authorities were preparing on Sunday to release a man who disappeared three years ago after posting videos of overcrowded hospitals and bodies during the COVID-19 outbreak, a relative and another close person said. his case.
Fang Bin and other members of the public who have been dubbed citizen journalists published details of the pandemic in early 2020 on the internet and social media, embarrassing Chinese officials who have been criticized for failing to control the outbreak. . The last video posted on Twitter by Fang, a seller of traditional Chinese clothing, was of a piece of paper saying, “All citizens resist, give power back to the people.”
Fang’s case is part of Beijing’s crackdown on criticism of China’s early handling of the pandemic, as the ruling Communist Party seeks to control the country’s narrative.
He was due to be released on Sunday, according to two people who declined to be identified for fear of government reprisals. One said Fang had been sentenced to three years in prison for “causing quarrels and stirring up trouble”, a vague charge traditionally used against political dissidents.
The Associated Press could not independently confirm his release and could not confirm details with authorities.
Two offices of the Wuhan Public Security Bureau did not provide their information desk phone number or answer any questions. Phone calls to a court that would have convicted Fang went unanswered Sunday afternoon. A woman from another court who allegedly handled Fang’s appeal said she was not authorized to answer questions.
In early 2020, the first COVID outbreak devastated the city of Wuhan, which has a population of 11 million, in central China’s Hubei province. Under a 76-day lockdown, its streets have been deserted for months except for ambulances and security personnel.
At that time, a small number of citizen journalists tried to tell their stories and those of others with smart phones and social media accounts, challenging the Communist Party’s tightly controlled monopoly on information. Although their movement was small, its scale was unprecedented in any of China’s previous outbreaks or major disasters.
But the information they posed soon got them into trouble. Fang and another citizen journalist, Chen Qiushi, disappeared in February.
Chen in September 2021 resurfaced on his friend’s live video stream on YouTube, saying he had suffered from depression. But he did not provide details of his disappearance.
Another citizen journalist, Zhang Zhan, who had also reported on the early stages of the outbreak, was sentenced to four years in prison for instigating fights and causing unrest in December 2020. About eight months later, her lawyer said she was sick. health after going on a long hunger strike.
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(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed)