Coronavirus outbreak: Chinese lawyer and citizen journalist Chen Qiushi ‘missing’ in Wuhan


The human rights lawyer, who also reported on the Hong Kong Protests, was covering the virus ‘when he was detained in the name of quarantine’

Joanne Ma |

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Medical workers treat patients in the isolated intensive care unit at a hospital in Wuhan in central China's Hubei province.

Chinese lawyer and citizen journalist Chen Qiushi, who travelled to Wuhan to cover the coronavirus outbreak, has been missing since Thursday night.

According to Chen’s mother, who spoke in a video posted to Chen’s Twitter account early on February 7, Chen was planning to visit Fang Cang hospital, where suspected coronavirus patients are quarantined, and she has not heard from him since. On February 8, a Chinese mixed martial artist and friend of Chen, Xu Xiaodong, said that Chen had been forcefully detained in the name of quarantine.

Chen arrived in Wuhan, in Hubei province, via High Speed Rail on January 24. He kicked off with a Lunar New Year greeting video, “Where Xi Jinping is at right now is none of my business, but I, Chen Qiushi, am here in Wuhan”, he said.

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Since then, he had documented what he witnessed in hospitals, funeral homes, streets of Wuhan and even the reported epicentre, Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market, on his Twitter and YouTube channels, promising to show the world first-hand the most authentic events of the outbreak.

He was outspoken in pointing out the flaws in the mainland’s medical system. One of his last tweets before disappearing was about how he had gathered enough evidence to show that Wuhan’s hospitals, and A&E and funeral services, had been overloaded.

On February 4, Chen visited Fang Cang, and quoted local doctors who said it looked more like a military hospital or temporary shelter. “A high concentration of patients who have been suspected of coronavirus infection live here. How can we prevent cross-infection then? This must be considered seriously,” Chen said.

Human rights lawyer and citizen journalist Chen Qiushi is reportedly missing in Wuhan.
Photo: Handout

He also called out the central government for blocking current affairs critic Wang Yajun’s WeChat account, after he donated 4,000 boxes of surgical masks and goggles to Wuhan on January 26.

“During rescue action, information transmission is extremely important, but the Chinese government is trying to stifle the communication between rescuers. It’s doing evil,” said Chen in a Tweet.

In August, Chen visited Hong Kong to report on the pro-democracy protests. He even broadcast a video challenging the characterisation of “rioters” and “separatists” used by the mainland officials to describe the protesters. “Most of those involved were peaceful, not all of them are rioters,” Chen said in a video.