China Detains, Harasses Journalist, Academics Over Reports, Comments on Coronavirus

Wuhan University philosophy professor Zhou Xuanyi (R) and comments by his students, who reported him after posting to the Weibo social media site that the government hadn’t been quick enough to tell people about the coronavirus threat.(provided by Zhou Xuanyi)

Chinese citizen journalist and lawyer Chen Qiushi is incommunicado, believed detained, after reporting from the front line of the coronavirus epidemic in the central city of Wuhan.

“In the past few hours, police from [a local] police station in Qingdao, along with some state security police, went to the workplace of Chen Qiushi’s father and questioned him about the family,” mixed martial arts (MMA) fighter Xu Xiaodong, who is in contact with Chen’s mother, said in a Feb. 8 announcement on Chen’s YouTube channel.

“At the same time, they informed Qiushi’s mother and father that he had been placed under restriction, in isolation,” he said. “His parents immediately wanted to know where and how he had been placed in isolation. The police wouldn’t answer that, just said they were informing them as required by law.”

Xu said Chen’s parents’ suspicions had been aroused because their son’s phone had been switched off for days since they last heard from him. Chen’s last YouTube video was posted on Feb. 4 and had garnered more than a million views by Monday.

“This suggests that Qiushi’s phone was forcibly confiscated,” he said, adding that Chen had been placed under “enforced” isolation, ostensibly because he had visited a number of hospitals in Wuhan.

He said Chen was no longer at an address near Hankou railway station given by the authorities as his location, and had likely already been taken elsewhere.

Xu also quoted Chen’s emergency contact as saying that they had previously checked in with him three or four times a day, but had been unable to reach him, which would be unlikely if he were merely under quarantine restrictions.

They had lost contact with him after Chen visited the Fangcang Hospital in Wuhan, where conditions were said to be “pretty terrible.”

Students report professor

One of Chen’s last broadcasts was from the newly built prefabricated hospital in Wuhan, which he had reached on a borrowed electric motor scooter, and which he described as “not fit to house infectious disease patients, as it was obviously designed to be a battlefield hospital.”

In a video posted about the events of Jan. 29, Chen had already expressed concerns that the authorities were on his trail.

“I have the coronavirus in my face, and the entire law enforcement system of China on my tail,” he said. “But I will carry on reporting from Wuhan for as long as I am still alive.”

“If I’m not afraid to die, why would I fear the Communist Party?”

Wuhan University philosophy professor Zhou Xuanyi was recently reported to the authorities by his students after posting to the Weibo social media site that the government hadn’t been quick enough to tell people about the coronavirus threat.

He was reported for “questioning the Communist Party” and “hating his own country,” according to recent social media posts.

Meanwhile, authorities in Beijing fired visiting lecturer and Hong Kong resident Zhou Peiyi after she made “inappropriate remarks” via her WeChat social media account about the ruling Chinese Communist Party’s management of the coronavirus epidemic.

Zhou Xuanyi’s words had “violated guidelines on the professional behavior of college teachers in the new era,” a notice from her employer, the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said.

Zhou’s contract was terminated and she was notified on Feb. 7, it said.

Incapable of transparency

Constitutional scholar Zhang Lifan said the government has once more proved itself incapable of transparency.

“They only want to report good news, and tell us not to worry so that we receive positive energy,” Zhang said. “The authorities haven’t learned their lesson: they have instead violated the constitution, human rights, and even humanitarian principles.”

“Today’s China is an upgraded version of the novel ‘1984,’” he said.

Police in Nanjing have also detained pro-democracy activist and former university lecturer Guo Quan, fellow activist Ai Wu told RFA.

“We are guessing that maybe he’s in criminal detention, because there are indications from the police that he will be held for 30 days,” Ai

The detentions come after the death from coronavirus of whistleblowing Wuhan doctor Li Wenliang, who was questioned and harassed by police for “spreading rumors,” after speaking out about a SARS-like virus in the early days of the epidemic, when more could have been done to contain it.

Writer Ye Du and other activists recently penned an open letter to premier Li Keqiang, calling on the country’s cabinet, the State Council, to order officials in Hubei to apologize publicly to Li and seven other medical staff accused of rumor-mongering.

“China lacks freedom of speech and the rights of its citizens are not protected or respected,” Ye told RFA. “It is not in the interest of this regime to do this.”

Reported by Ng Yik-tung and Sing Man for RFA’s Cantonese Service, and by Gao Feng for the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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