The world is seeking answers from China whether Wuhan virology lab was responsible for the COVID-19 outbreak or not but what is glaring is that some whistleblowers who tried to show the world what was actually going on in the country during the lockdown are still missing.
While late Dr Li Wenliang from Wuhan, who first sounded the alarm of the outbreak and was silenced by authorities, died in February after contracting Coronavirus, there are three more people who tried to reveal details about the handling of COVID-19 in Wuhan. But there is no sign of these three whistleblowers after they went missing almost two months ago.
The missing whistleblowers in China
Chen Qiushi, Fang Bing and Li Zehua vanished from the public sight in February and Chinese authorities have made no comment about these missing people as of now. All these three people were Chinese journalists, who had sought to expose the true scale of the outbreak from the initial epicentre of the Coronavirus outbreak in the country. To reveal facts about the COVID-19 scenario in China, these journalists had uploaded YouTube and Twitter videos which are banned platforms in the country.
The 34-year-old Chen has gone missing since February 6. He arrived in Wuhan before the city authorities imposed a lockdown. His aim was to provide reports from the heart of the outbreak in China. One of his reports included an incident with a woman, who was talking to her family over the phone while sitting next to a dead body of a relative in a wheelchair, while another report included the helpless situation of patients in the overstretched Wuhan hospitals.
He had planned to visit 'Fang Cang' makeshift hospital before vanishing. Later, a Tweet by his friend from his account revealed that Chen went missing. His mother also then posted a video for his safe return. On Wednesday, a recent post from Chen's Twitter handle reads:
"Who can tell us where and how Chen Qiushi is right now? When will anyone get to speak with him again? Chen Qiushi has been out of contact for 68 days after covering coronavirus in Wuhan. Please save him!!!"
The Wuhan residents went missing
Another man, Fang Bin, who is a resident of Wuhan, went missing on February 9. Before vanishing from the public sight, he posted a series of videos which also included showing piles of dead bodies being loaded in a bus. He was allegedly arrested by the local police before the disappearance.
Bin's last uploaded video showed hazmat-donning officers knocking on his door to measure his body temperature. In the video, Fang was seen trying to fend off the authorities by telling them that the temperature is normal.
Soon after Fang, another resident of Wuhan, 25-year-old Li Zehua, a famous local reporter disappeared on February 26. He was the former employee of state broadcaster CCTV and during the outbreak, he started reporting independently from Wuhan. Before his disappearance, Li went to a series of sensitive venues in Wuhan, including the community that held a huge banquet despite the epidemic in early January as well as the crematorium which was hiring extra staff to help carry dead bodies.
As per the RFA, he was likely targeted by secret police after visiting the Wuhan Institute of Virology which is currently in the spotlight of the Coronavirus conspiracy theories that suggest it is the place from where deadly virus escaped. It should be noted that US intelligence agencies have launched an investigation to find out whether the Coronavirus may have leaked from a Chinese laboratory, said Army General Mark A Milley, a senior US military officer. He told media in Pentagon that initial assessments indicate that this virus appears to have been a "natural" event arising from the animal-to-human transmission, but new reports revealed origin may have occurred as an escape from a laboratory.
Where are these three?
Republican Representative Jim Banks asked the US government in a letter dated March 31 to find out about Chen, Fang and Li. The letter reads, "All three of these men understood the personal risk associated with independent reporting on coronavirus in China, but they did it anyway," while alleging that China government may have put them into imprisonment or "worse."
Apart from these three, a Chinese tycoon and prominent Communist party member, Ren Zhiqiang also went missing after calling President Xi Jinping a "clown" for the way government handled the Coronavirus situation in China. Last week, it was revealed by the Chinese authorities that the 69-year-old Ren was being investigated for a series of discipline and law violations.
A 47-year-old, a former law lecturer, Xu Zhiyong has allegedly been charged with "inciting state subversion" after being detained on February 15. As per some experts, allegedly Xi is being kept in a secret location and at "serious risk" of torture and ill-treatment.
Among these people who went missing there is another name, a Wuhan doctor, Ai Fen. The Director of the emergency department at Wuhan Central Hospital, Fen, first posted information about the new Coronavirus on WeChat. The post included an image of a diagnostic report of a patient which showed that the person had a pneumonia infection caused by a SARS-like virus. The post was also shared by the late Li Wenliang. But Fen revealed in an interview that initially she was silenced by the Chinese authorities and asked not to reveal any details.