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Chinese citizen journalist goes missing while reporting on coronavirus

Chen Qiushi (Photo: YouTube)

A Chinese citizen journalist who has defied a government order to quarantine amid a virus pandemic has gone missing, according to a relative.

The mother of human rights advocate Chen Qiushi used his Twitter account last week to post a video calling international attention to her son’s disappearance.

“Please, online friends and especially those in Wuhan, please help me and find Chen Qiushi and find out what happened to him,” his mother said according to the Guardian.

Chen had been posting regular updates to tens of thousands of followers on his YouTube and Twitter accounts when he disappeared. His posts originated from Wuhan, the city considered ground zero for the super bug known as coronavirus.

According to his mother, Chen visited a hospital last week, though it was not clear if he went as a citizen journalist or patient. Relatives believe he has been forcibly quarantined.

Social media posts over the weekend may support this theory: In videos circulated on YouTube and Twitter, health and government officials were seen forcibly removing individuals from an apartment in Wuhan after the residents refused to self-quarantine.

Chen’s disappearance was widely reported last week around the same time a doctor who first raised public health concerns about the Wuhan coronavirus died from the disease.

Li Wenliang, 34, an ophthalmologist at the Wuhan Central Hospital, used WeChat to circulate messages to colleagues about the coronavirus. His warnings were later shared publicly, prompting Chinese authorities to arrest Li for “making false comments on the Internet.”

Li eventually returned to work and contracted the disease while treating a patient.

Chinese citizens have expressed anger at the government for their treatment of whistleblowers and citizen journalists. Following reports of Li’s death, hundreds of people defied a government quarantine order by protesting in the streets of Wuhan, demanding free speech for medical professionals and greater government accountability.

Last Friday, a group of professors penned a letter to China’s National People’s Congress demanding the ability to speak openly about the Wuhan coronavirus.

“Where there is no free speech, there is no safety,” the letter said.

More than 42,000 people in China have contracted the Wuhan coronavirus since December, according to news reports. On Monday, the death toll from the virus exceeded 1,000 in China, the New York Times reported.

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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About the Author:

Matthew Keys

Matthew Keys is the publisher of The Desk and reports on the business and policy matters involving the broadcast television, streaming video and radio industries. He previously worked for Thomson Reuters, Disney-ABC, Tribune Broadcasting and McNaughton Newspapers. Matthew is based in Northern California, has won numerous awards in the field of journalism, and is a member of IRE (Investigative Reporters and Editors).