Family 'deeply worried' after journalist covering coronavirus outbreak vanishes

Brooke Rolfe
News Reporter

Family of a Chinese citizen journalist, who has been reporting grim details of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, is calling for help after he mysteriously disappeared earlier this week.

Chen Qiushi, a former rights lawyer, has not been seen or heard from since Thursday about 7pm (local time), the day before coronavirus whistleblower Dr Li Wenliang died after contracting the virus.

Calls to the missing journalist have gone unanswered and his family had grown more concerned for his welfare as more days pass with no information on his whereabouts, The Sun reported.

“Chinese citizen journalist Chen Qiushi has been missing since 7:00 PM last night. He travelled to Wuhan to report on the coronavirus outbreak,” a post to his Twitter, made by family on Thursday, read.

Chen Qiushi in a YouTube video speaking about conditions in Wuhan. Source: YouTube

“His family and friends are deeply worried. Please help to spread the news and support him.”

Chen intended on travelling to a makeshift hospital, where a gym had been converted into a shelter to treat coronavirus victims, the day he disappeared, The Sun reported.

A friend wrote on Chen’s Twitter, saying the journalist was “ in good health” and had a “normal temperature” when he vanished, and was “yet to get in touch with his family”.

Chen had previously pointed out what he believed were shortfalls in the way the outbreak had been managed, detailing the issue of hygiene when cramming thousands into makeshift hospitals.

“It's easy to put 1000 beds in the stadium, but how do 1000 people eat together? How to bathe, how to go to the toilet?” one post to his Twitter read.

He reportedly frequented hospitals, funeral homes and residential areas in Wuhan to gauge the virus’s impact, often photographing and sharing videos to his social media.

Adding to his family’s concern is likely the arrest of another citizen journalist named Fang Bin, who was taken into custody after sharing videos of bodies being loaded onto a bus.

Fang has since been released, but there has been no word on Chen, who had posted distressing content including a woman crying out hysterically while sitting next to a dead relative.

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

He may be perceived as taking a large risk by publicly sharing unfiltered information about conditions in Wuhan, given the Chinese government’s stance on censorship.

There was widespread outrage following the death of Dr Li, who was one of several doctors who attempted to spread awareness on the virus last year, but was condemned and censored for doing so.

A letter to Dr Li from the Wuhan police bureau on January 3 said he had "severely disrupted social order" with messages on a messaging app called WeChat.

He was asked to sign the letter as a promise to cease the illegal behaviour or face criminal charges.

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