China is set to release jailed citizen journalist Fang Bin, whose reports in early 2020 highlighted the Covid-19 crisis in China. It has been learnt that Fang, whose reports from hospitals put the Chinese government on the back foot, was tried in secret and slapped with a four-year jail term.
Fang's sudden disappearance followed his ground reports from Wuhan hospitals that threw light on the emerging viral outbreak from Wuhan. After livestreaming his reports from Wuhan hospitals and calling the coronavirus outbreak as a 'man-made disaster', Fang disappeared from the public.
Fang and other citizen journalists went incommunicado, leaving their families in the dark about their whereabouts. However, according to the latest reports, Fang's family has been notified by police that he will be released from prison on April 30.
"Fang Bin was sentenced in secret by the Jiang'an District People's Court to more than three years' imprisonment ...The family hasn't received any legal documents or a copy of the judgment, however ... and they don't know the nature of the charges," Radio Free Asia has reported a person familiar with the situation as saying.
According to the RFA report, Fang spent the last three years in a facility that was earlier used as a juvenile correctional center in Wuhan's Jiangxia district. "He may have been held in solitary confinement for more than three years," the report says.
Wuhan residents say Fang's reports from hospitals and funeral homes highlighted the emerging threat. "He was the first to make a video saying publicly that the Chinese Communist Party's authoritarian rule had given rise to the outbreak ... He launched a nationwide citizen journalism effort, and let people see the dead bodies in the hospital, counting them, one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight — it was shocking," RFA quotes a resident as saying.
Alongside Fang, two other whistleblowers, Chen Qiushi and Li Zehua had also gone missing in February 2020. They were all Chinese journalists, who exposed 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.
Fang's Last Video
Fang, 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. Fang'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.