At the start of the Lunar New Year holidays on January 24, when others intended to spend the week with their families, the 34-year-old Chen Qiushi went to Wuhan, the epicentre of the Covid-19 outbreak, where the disease first originated. He reported extensively from hospitals, funeral parlours and makeshift isolation wards. He was last heard on Thursday (February 6) prompting his family and friends to raise the alarm over Qiushi's disappearance.
What happened to Chen Qiushi?
Qiushi, who describes himself as a citizen journalist, arrived in Wuhan on January 24, a day after the city was placed into complete lock-down, with widespread travel restrictions. He captured the grim condition of the city, in videos, which he posted online.
"I've said before that I'm a citizen journalist. What kind of journalist am I if I don't rush to the front line when there is a disaster?" he said in his first video in Wuhan. "I will use my camera to witness and document what is really happening under Wuhan's efforts to contain the outbreak. And I'm willing to help spread the voice of Wuhan people to the outside world," he said.
"While I'm here, I promise I won't start or spread rumours. I won't create fear or panic, nor would I cover up the truth".
In a 27-minute long video he posted on his YouTube channel, he said, "I'm scared, I have the virus in front of me and behind me China's law enforcement". "But I will keep my spirits up, as long as I'm alive and in this city, I will continue my reports", he added.
"I'm not afraid of dying. Why should I be afraid of you, the Communist Party?", Chen said. In the video, he also spoke about the eight whistle-blowers, including the 34-year-old ophthalmologist Li Wenliang, who raised an early alarm over coronavirus cases. Li died of the same disease on February 7.
Qiushi's friends and family last heard from him on Thursday. His friend posted a video message of his mother on his Twitter page. His close friends said Chen had left them his login details to the platform, in case he was taken by the authorities, CNN reported. "I'm here to beg everyone online, especially friends in Wuhan to help find Qiushi, find out what's going on with him," his mother said.
Later, it was learnt from his family as reported by the Business Insider India that the journalist had been forcibly quarantined. Though the authorities informed his parents that he had been quarantined, they didn't tell them when and where was he held.
This isn't the first time that he has been silenced by the Chinese authorities. His trip to Hong Kong, last year was cut short after he was called back by the mainland authorities. He had gone there to report on the pro-democracy demonstrations that had captured the world's attention. Freedom of speech and of the press is granted to its citizens by Article 35 of the Chinese constitution.