Second citizen journalist goes missing in China after reporting on coronavirus

Chinese businessman and grassroots journalist Fang Bin as seen in a still image from his YouTube account. (Photo: Fang Bin/YouTube)

For the second time this month, a citizen journalist has gone missing in China while defying a government quarantine ban to report on the coronavirus outbreak there.

Friends of grassroots reporter Fang Bin told a Hong Kong broadcaster they had reason to believe the businessman-turned-citizen journalist had been arrested by plainclothes police officers over the weekend.

According to broadcaster RTHK, firefighters assisted police officers in breaking into Fang’s apartment in Wuhan, the city that has been considered ground zero for the coronavirus. Wuhan has been under a government-imposed quarantine order since January 23.

The arrest came shortly after Fang posted a 12-second video to his YouTube account that showed a handwritten note urging Chinese citizens to resist the government.  His arrest came after another video blogger, Chen Qiushi, was believed to be forced into quarantine by police and health officials.

Critics have expressed disdain at the Chinese government’s attempts to tighten censorship by criminally charging individuals who distribute critical information about the coronavirus. Government prosecutors in the country have charged several individuals with “spreading rumors.” Observers say the censorship may come from a concern by government officials that the coronavirus could have long-term economic impacts.

On Monday, government officials issued a new set of guidelines that outlined how the country would respond to social media users who distributed information about the coronavirus online. The outline said citizens could be punished if they “spread fear” about the disease, criticized the government’s response to the outbreak or otherwise “jeopardized” efforts to contain it.

For accurate and reliable information about the coronavirus COVID-19, click or tap here to visit the World Health Organization’s website.

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