Chen Qiushi is an influential citizen journalist with more than 400,000 followers on YouTube, 250,000 followers on Twitter and 740,000 on the Chinese social media platform Weibo. The journalist travelled from Beijing to Wuhan on January 24 where he filmed and reported about the situation in Wuhan, covering the lack of resources to deal with the epidemic, the lack of capacity at hospitals, the rising death tolls and the misconduct of civil servants. Chen livestreamed interviews with patients through Weibo, allowing them to speak out about the coronavirus. Since Chen’s disappearance his Weibo account has been taken down.
Chen’s mother said her family lost contact with Chen on February 7. At 6pm that day, he told his family he would visit Feng Cang hospital in Wuhan to talk to patients with the coronavirus. Authorities are reported to have since told Chen’s family that he is being forcibly quarantined in an undisclosed location.
As a citizen journalist, Chen is known for closely following a number of cases, including the detention of citizen journalist Fang Bin and the interrogation of activist Hu Jia by Chinese authorities. Chen also travelled from Bejing to Hong Kong in August 2019 to report on the anti-government protests. Chen was quoted in Hong Kong as saying that authorities ‘advised’ him to return to China.
The IFJ said: “We are incredibly concerned by the disappearance of Chen Qiushi. Journalists, including citizen journalists, are critically needed during national emergencies in imparting stories from everyday people and providing insights that may greatly assist the public’s right to information and inform response efforts in times of crisis. The IFJ calls on Chinese authorities to immediately disclose the location of Chen, allow him contact with his family and to provide guarantees for his safety.”