The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) is known for censorship and restriction of information both outside as well as inside the country, including the turbulent period of the Coronavirus pandemic, when Beijing tried to shun doctors, activists, and journalists who wanted to shed light on the truth.
A former lawyer and citizen journalist, Zhang Zhan reported on the Coronavirus outbreak from central China. Now her father confirmed that she was formally arrested on public disturbance charges in Shanghai. As per reports on Friday, June 19, Zhan's family was notified about her arrest for allegedly "picking quarrels and provoking trouble." Recent reports also revealed that her arrest was approved by prosecutors in Shanghai's Pudong district.
As per the official notice given to Zhan's family, the 37-year-old was in police custody in the Pudong district. The 63-year-old father of the journalist told the South China Morning Post that he is worried about her health and the detention conditions. "We don't have any connections or money to get her out – we're in an utterly powerless situation," he said.
Zhan, a citizen journalist, traveled to the initial epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, Wuhan in early February. She somehow managed to live stream what she witnessed inside the city on Twitter, YouTube, and other social media platforms. Zhan also wrote an article on how the local officials responded to the outbreak in Wuhan and mentioned that the CCP had imposed measures that infringed on people's human rights.
Before the arrest, Zhan also raised questions about the coverup and talked about the censorship in the mainstream media of China. But her father was concerned over Zhan's decision to become a citizen journalist in China and was pessimistic whether it could prompt any change in the country.
Light in The Dark Should Be Blocked
Along with Zhan, there are other citizen journalists, who wanted to show the truth of what was happening in Wuhan. They posted videos online, shared pictures, and filed stories from inside the Chinese city in Hubei Province. Chen Qiushi and Fang Bin were determined to share what they saw inside the city of Wuhan with the rest of the world. But now they are not found.
Fang uploaded his first video on January 25 on YouTube, which is banned in China but accessible through virtual private networks (VPN). Then on February 1, he filmed a video that appeared to show eight corpses piled in a minibus outside a hospital in Wuhan. He alleged that the local police entered his home and interrogated him about his videos. On February 3, Fang posted a 13-second video with the slogan "All people revolt - hand the power of the government back to the people" and that was his last post.
The former human rights lawyer-turned video journalist Qiushi who built his reputation through his coverage of the Hong Kong protests in August 2019 created a YouTube account in October. In January, Qiushi decided to travel to Wuhan to report on the worsening situation during the COVID-19 outbreak. He said in his first YouTube video, "I will use my camera to document what is really happening. I promise I won't... cover up the truth."
He visited several Wuhan hospitals to unveil the truth, even though he knew that he is putting himself at risk. Later, his friend Xu Xiaodong alleged that he had been forcibly quarantined. Patrick Poon, a researcher at Amnesty International, said it was still unclear whether both of them "were taken away by police or placed under 'forced quarantine.'"
Their videos from Wuhan received thousands of views but their channels have now gone quiet. People, who followed these journalists now believe that they may have disappeared for good. But Chinese authorities have remained tight-lipped on it and no official statement has been issued on Fang or Qiushi's disappearance.