A Chinese man who took on the role of online journalist to expose the scope of the coronavirus outbreak in the Hubei province of China disappeared last week, possibly having been forcibly quarantined — although his whereabouts are unknown and he has become unreachable, according to Time.
The man, Chen Qiushi, posted widely viewed video reports showing the death and chaos the virus has caused, and he knew that his actions were attracting the attention of authorities.
"I am scared," Chen said in a video near the end of January, after he had spent about a week documenting the coronavirus impact in Wuhan and surrounding areas. "I have the virus in front of me, and on my back, I have the legal and administrative power of China. ... Even death doesn't scare me! So you think I'm scared of the Communist Party?"
Chen graduated from law school in 2007. He worked a variety of jobs after that, including waiter, hotel cleaner, voice actor, and police reporter. He also worked as a television host. He passed the bar in 2014 and was able to start his legal career in Beijing.
He has a popular legal commentary video blog on the Chinese equivalent of the social media network TikTok, but had his Chinese social media accounts shut down for presenting both sides of the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong.
Chen said he felt it was his duty to be on the front lines of the coronavirus crisis, visiting hospitals and exposing footage of dead bodies propped up in wheelchairs or being loaded into vans to be cremated and of sick people cramming into overwhelmed hospitals, desperate for treatment.
He posted more than 100 videos over the course of two weeks. A friend of Chen's, mixed martial arts fighter Xu Xiaodong, said Chen has been forcibly quarantined for 14 days, even though he was healthy and had no signs of having been infected.
"Letting people speak cannot cause deaths," Chen said in January. "Not letting people speak can cause many deaths."