Report: China Frees COVID 'Citizen Journalist' After 3 Years

    Report: China Frees COVID 'Citizen Journalist' After 3 Years
    Last updated May 03, 2023
    Image credit: AFP [via The Guardian]


    • Fang Bin, a Chinese citizen journalist who disappeared after reporting on the COVID outbreak in Wuhan, was released on Sunday after three years of detention, according to multiple reports citing people familiar with the matter.[1]
    • The reports claim that Fang was taken to Beijing, where he has family, before being returned to Wuhan on Monday, where he currently remains under observation. Human rights groups claim neither city will accept him.[1]
    • Radio Free Asia, citing an anonymous source, reported that Fang was instructed by authorities not to post online or give interviews following his release.[2]
    • During the early days of the outbreak, Fang was among several citizens who shared details of the pandemic, posting videos appearing to show hospital overcrowding and bodies. He disappeared in 2020 and was reportedly sentenced to three years of detention for "picking quarrels and provoking trouble," a charge typically levied against dissidents.[3]
    • Zhang Zhan, a lawyer turned journalist, was reportedly sentenced in 2020 to four years in prison on the same charge as Fang, and Wuhan resident Chen Qiushi disappeared in 2020 before resurfacing a year later. Both published information about the COVID outbreak.[1]
    • Beijing declared a "decisive victory" over COVID in February, however, it has faced criticism for an alleged lack of transparency related to the pandemic.[4]


    Anti-China narrative

    COVID accelerated the decline of press freedoms in a nation that already suffers from a dearth of them. Fang Bin and others took grave risks to speak the truth about China's COVID façade, and they should be commended for their bravery, not punished. All similarly imprisoned journalists must be freed by the Chinese Communist Party.

    Pro-China narrative

    Provoked by Western actors with a vested interest in destabilizing the country, these so-called citizen journalists — who violated Chinese laws — were duped into spreading falsehoods, distorting China's robust COVID response. The West should scrutinize its own handling of COVID before condemning others.

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