Last Update: May 01, 2023, 18:13 IST
A relative and another person familiar with his case said on Sunday that Chinese authorities were preparing to release a man who was imprisoned three years ago after making public videos of overcrowded hospitals and bodies during the COVID-19 outbreak. had disappeared.
Fang Bin and other members of the public, dubbed citizen journalists, posted details of the epidemic on the Internet and social media in early 2020, causing embarrassment to the Chinese authorities, who were accused of failing to control the outbreak. Criticism had to be faced. The last video posted on Twitter was of Fang, a seller of traditional Chinese clothing, holding a piece of paper that read “All citizens protest, hand power back to the people.”
Fang’s case is part of Beijing’s crackdown on criticism of China’s early handling of the pandemic, as the ruling Communist Party seeks to control the country’s narrative.
He was to be released on Sunday, according to two people, who did not want to be identified for fear of government retribution. One of them said that Fang had been sentenced to three years in prison for “raising a quarrel and inciting trouble”, a vague charge traditionally used against political dissidents.
The Associated Press could not independently verify his release and could not confirm details with officials.
Two offices of Wuhan’s public security bureau did not give the phone number of their information office or answer questions. Phone calls to a court that reportedly sentenced Fang Rang on Sunday afternoon remained unanswered. A woman at another court, reportedly handling Fang’s appeal, said she was not authorized to answer questions.
In early 2020, the initial COVID outbreak ravaged the city of Wuhan in central China’s Hubei province, home to 11 million residents. Apart from ambulances and security personnel, its roads remained deserted for months during the 76-day lockdown.
At the time, a small number of citizen journalists tried to tell their own and others’ stories with smart phones and social media accounts, defying the Communist Party’s tightly policed monopoly on information. Although their movement was small, the scale was unprecedented in any previous major disease outbreak or disaster in China.
But the information he provided soon landed him in trouble. Fang and Chen Qiushi, another civilian journalist, went missing in February.
Chen appeared on his friend’s live video feed on YouTube in September 2021, saying that he was suffering from depression. But he did not give information about his disappearance.
Another citizen journalist, Zhang Zhan, who also reported on the early stages of the outbreak, was sentenced to four years in prison in December 2020 for fighting and causing trouble. About eight months later, her lawyer said she was ill. Health after long hunger strike
read all Breaking News Here
(This story has not been edited by News18 staff and is published from a syndicated news agency feed)