Citizen Journalists Who Exposed Beijing’s Lies In Wuhan Have Suddenly Vanished

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Citizen Journalists Who Exposed Beijing’s Lies In Wuhan Have Suddenly Vanished

As we reported late Thursday evening, the death toll from the viral outbreak on mainland China has surpassed 600. With global markets once again in the red, Bloomberg reports that Beijing has silenced two of the citizen journalists responsible for much of the horrifying footage seeping onto western social media.

As BBG’s reporter explains, Chinese citizen journalists Chen Qiushi and Fang Bin have effectively been “the world’s eyes and ears” inside Wuhan (much of the film produced by American news organizations has consisted of drone footage). In recent days, SCMP and other news organizations reporting on the ground and publishing in English have warned that Beijing has stepped up efforts to censor Chinese social media after allowing citizens to vent their frustrations and share news without the usual scrutiny.

On Wednesday, China said its censors would conduct “targeted supervision” on the largest social media platforms including Weibo, Tencent’s WeChat and ByteDance’s Douyin. All in an effort to mask the dystopian nightmare that life in cities like Wuhan has become.

But that brief period of informational amnesty is now over, apparently. Fang posted a dramatic video on Friday showing him being forcibly detained and dragged off to a ‘quarantine’. He was detained over a video showing corpses piled up in a Wuhan hospital. However, he has already been released.

Chen, meanwhile, seems to have vanished without a trace, and is believed to still be in government detention. We shared one of Chen’s more alarming videos documenting the severe medical supply shortages and outnumbered medical personnel fighting a ‘losing battle’ against the outbreak.

The crackdown on these journalists comes amid an outpouring of public anger over the death of a doctor who was wrongly victimized by police after attempting to warn the public about the outbreak. Beijing tried to cover up the death, denying it to the western press before the local hospital confirmed.

The videos supplied by the two citizen journos have circulated most freely on twitter, which is where most in-the-know Chinese go for their latest information about the outbreak. Many “hop” the “great firewall” via a VPN.

“There’s a lot more activity happening on Twitter compared with Weibo and WeChat,” said Maya Wang, senior China researcher at Human Rights Watch. There has been a Chinese community on Jack Dorsey’s short-message platform since before President Xi Jinping rose to power, she added, but the recent crackdown has weakened that social circle.

Chen has now been missing for more than 24 hours, according to several friends in contact with BBG News.

Chen has been out of contact for a prolonged period of time. His friends posted a message on his Twitter account saying he has been unreachable since 7 p.m. local time on Thursday. In a texted interview, Bloomberg News’s last question to Chen was whether he was concerned about his safety as he’s among the few people reporting the situation on the front lines.

It’s all part of the great crackdown that Beijing is enforcing, even as the WHO continues to praise the Communist Party for its ‘transparency’.

“After lifting the lid briefly to give the press and social media some freedom,” said Wang about China’s ruling Communist Party, the regime “is now reinstating its control over social media, fearing it could lead to a wider-spread panic.”

With a little luck, the world might soon learn Chen’s whereabouts. Then again, there’s always the chance that he’s never heard from again.


Tyler Durden

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US discussing Goldman Sachs 1MDB settlement of below US$2 billion

GOLDMAN Sachs Group Inc could end up paying less than US$2 billion (RM8.32 billion) to resolve US criminal and regulatory probes over its role in raising money for scandal-ridden Malaysian investment fund 1MDB, said three people familiar with the negotiations.

The Justice Department and other federal agencies, in internal discussions held in recent weeks, have weighed seeking penalties of between US$1.5 billion and US$2 billion, the people said. That’s less than what some analysts have signalled Goldman might have to pay. While a settlement could be announced as soon as next month, the terms could change before a deal is finalised, said the people who asked not to be named in discussing private negotiations.

The bulk of the penalties would be paid to the Justice Department. Attorney General William Barr has directly immersed himself in the case, according to another person familiar with the matter. Earlier this year, Barr obtained a waiver to let him oversee the investigation, even though his former law firm, Kirkland & Ellis LLP, is representing Goldman. It’s unclear whether the Justice Department is seeking a guilty plea from the bank.

A Justice Department spokesman declined to comment, as did spokesmen for the Federal Reserve and Securities and Exchange Commission, which have been pursuing civil investigations into Goldman. The bank reiterated its previous statements that it continues to cooperate with authorities.

Goldman Sachs shares climbed as much as 3.1 per cent on the discussions, the biggest intraday gain in almost two months. The bank’s stock is up 33 per cent this year.

Reputation blow

Goldman’s involvement with 1MDB has triggered one of the biggest blows to its reputation in recent years, leading to a litany of investigations and embarrassing revelations of a former banker bribing government officials. The Wall Street firm has been eager to move past the scandal, and a US settlement of below US$2 billion would put it on track to avoid the worst-case scenario that some analysts pegged at as much as US$9 billion in global fines.

Goldman is separately negotiating a settlement with Malaysian authorities, who have in recent discussions floated much lower figures than their public stance of wanting to recover US$7.5 billion. Goldman is still privately seeking to reduce its sanctions, arguing that the crimes were committed by a rogue employee and that the bank wasn’t aware of the misconduct.

If it pays anywhere close to US$2 billion, Goldman would join other banks that have been subjected to massive US penalties this decade. In 2012, HSBC Holdings Plc set a new bar when it agreed to pay more than US$1.9 billion to settle allegations that it violated sanctions and enabled money laundering. BNP Paribas SA was then hit with the largest financial penalty ever in a US criminal case when it paid US$9 billion over sanctions violations.

In previous international corruption cases, the US has sometimes credited penalties paid to other countries for the same conduct. For example, a US$1.3 billion US settlement last year with Societe Generale SA included a credit of almost US$300 million that was paid to French authorities.

1MDB became the hub of a global corruption and embezzlement scandal in which a massive amount of cash was allegedly diverted to corrupt officials and financiers. Goldman helped the state investment fund raise cash, with the Wall Street bank making about US$600 million from US$6.5 billion in bond sales in 2012 and 2013.

Yacht, movies

Tim Leissner, a former senior Goldman banker in Southeast Asia, admitted last year to bribery and pleaded guilty to US charges that he conspired to launder money.

Money diverted from 1MDB was allegedly spent around the world, including on a super yacht, the Hollywood movie “The Wolf of Wall Street” and high-end real estate. Authorities in several countries have been working to recoup some of the missing billions and punish those involved.

There are signs that Goldman has made progress in its negotiations with US agencies and may also have a sense of how much it might pay to settle the investigations.

For instance, Goldman stopped buying back its stock in the third quarter as it began discussions with US authorities on 1MDB. Goldman later restarted its buybacks as talks with the government progressed and the firm added US$300 million to its estimate of possible legal losses, chief financial officer Stephen Scherr said on an October conference call with analysts and investors.

Compliance failures

Goldman has previously blamed Leissner for concealing his wrongdoing from the firm’s compliance efforts. Leissner has countered that the bank’s culture of secrecy led him to bypass compliance. US authorities allege that in addition to Leissner, two other bankers were aware of the scheme, including one who went on to become the bank’s top dealmaker in the region.

Earlier this year, the Fed banned Leissner and his former deputy, Roger Ng, from the banking industry. Ng faces US accusations of money laundering and bribery, and also Malaysian charges of aiding the bank’s efforts to mislead investors. – Bloomberg

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Journalists Under Attack

In May 2019, WIRED joined the One Free Press Coalition, a united group of preeminent editors and publishers using their global reach and social platforms to spotlight journalists under attack worldwide. Today, the coalition is issuing its sixth monthly “10 Most Urgent” list of journalists whose press freedoms are being suppressed or whose cases demand justice.

Paul Chouta, the Cameroon Web reporter who was arrested in May, denied bail, and charged with defamation and spreading false news. His case has been delayed until August 13 and he remains in a maximum-security prison. Aasif Sultan, a reporter for Kashmir Narrator, was arrested on “anti-state” charges and will have been imprisoned for one year on August 27. He has been repeatedly interrogated by police, demanding that he reveal his sources.

Here is the August list, ranked in order of urgency:

1. Jamal Khashoggi (Saudi Arabia): Stonewalling continues after new UN report implicates Saudi prince for journalist’s murder.

Months after his brazen killing, and despite findings from the UN and the CIA that point to the Saudi crown prince’s involvement, there has been no independent criminal investigation. Calls for the White House to release intelligence reports have gone unheeded, along with a deadline to reply to Congress as required under the U.S. Global Magnitsky Act.

2. Azory Gwanda (Tanzania): Tanzanian official claims missing journalist is dead—then backtracks.

Azory Gwanda, a freelance journalist investigating mysterious killings in rural Tanzania, has been missing since November 21, 2017, and the government has failed to conduct an investigation or disclose what it knows. On July 10, Tanzanian Foreign Minister Palamagamba Kabudi said in an interview that Gwanda had “disappeared and died,” but backtracked amid requests for clarification.

3. Juan Pardinas (Mexico): Mexican newspaper editor targeted with death threats for criticizing new president.

Mexican media organizations and journalists have recently reported a sharp increase in threats and online harassment over critical reporting of the López Obrador administration. Juan Pardinas, the editor-in-chief of Mexican newspaper Reforma, received a barrage of online harassment and threats after President Andrés Manuel López Obrador criticized the newspaper in April. López Obrador acknowledged the threats against Pardinas and said that his government had offered protective measures to the journalist.

4. Paul Chouta (Cameroon): Journalist in maximum security prison blocked from seeing family.

Cameroon Web reporter Paul Chouta was arrested in May, denied bail, and charged with defamation and spreading false news. Chouta’s editor said he suspects the case was in retaliation for critical reporting. His case has been delayed until August 13 and he remains in a maximum-security prison.

5. Azimjon Askarov (Kyrgyzstan): Kyrgyz court upholds life sentence for documenting human rights abuses.

Award-winning journalist Azimjon Askarov, who is an ethnic Uzbek, has spent nine years in prison on trumped-up charges for his reporting on human rights violations. Despite persistent international condemnation and calls for his release, a Kyrgyz court that had reviewed his case in light of new legislation ruled to uphold his life sentence on July 30.

6. Ayşe Nazlı Ilıcak (Turkey): Turkish journalist faces 30 years in solitary confinement.

A commentator for opposition newspaper Özgür Düşünce and Can Erzincan TV, Ayşe Nazlı Ilıcak was arrested in 2016 and sentenced in February 2018 to life without parole for trying to overturn the constitution through her journalism. In a separate trial in January, she was sentenced to an additional five years for revealing state secrets. In Turkey, which has been the top jailer of journalists three years in a row, life sentences without parole equate to 30 years in solitary confinement, with limited visits.

7. Marzieh Amiri (Iran): Imprisoned journalist denied healthcare after for covering May Day demonstrations.

Iranian authorities arrested Marzieh Amiri, an economics reporter at Tehran-based newspaper Shargh Daily, as she covered May Day demonstrations, and her family has had limited contact with her since. Authorities have accused Amiri of committing crimes against national security without giving further details.

8. Jones Abiri (Nigeria): Journalist re-arrested on terrorism and cybercrime charges.

Jones Abiri, the publisher and editor-in-chief of the Weekly Source, is behind bars on charges under Nigeria’s cybercrimes act, anti-sabotage act, and terrorism prevention act for crimes allegedly carried out in 2016. The charges are the same ones that a court threw out after he was held without access to his family or a lawyer from 2016 to 2018.

9. Aasif Sultan (India): Journalist imprisoned one year without due process for covering conflict.

Aasif Sultan, a reporter for Kashmir Narrator, will have been imprisoned one year on August 27, arrested in 2018 and months later charged with “complicity” in “harboring known terrorists.” He has been repeatedly interrogated and asked to reveal his sources by police. Sultan continues to be denied due process, with ongoing delays in his hearings.

10. Truong Duy Nhat (Vietnam): Blogger who disappeared in Thailand imprisoned in Vietnam.

Truong Duy Nhat, a Vietnamese reporter with Radio Free Asia, went missing in January in Bangkok, Thailand, where he had applied for refugee status. In March, his daughter learned he was jailed without charge in a Hanoi detention center. Nhat was previously sentenced to two years in prison in 2013 in connection to his critical reporting on the government.

According to CPJ research, the killers go unpunished in nine out of every 10 journalists murdered.

The One Free Press Coalition contains 33 prominent international members including: AméricaEconomía; The Associated Press; Bloomberg News; The Boston Globe; BuzzFeed; CNN Money Switzerland; Corriere Della Sera; De Standaard; Deutsche Welle; Estadão; EURACTIV; The Financial Times; Forbes; Fortune; HuffPost; India Today; Insider Inc.; Le Temps; Middle East Broadcasting Networks; Office of Cuba Broadcasting; Quartz; Radio Free Asia; Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty; Republik; Reuters; The Straits Times; Süddeutsche Zeitung; TIME; TV Azteca; Voice of America; The Washington Post; WIRED; and Yahoo News.

One Free Press Coalition partners with the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) and the International Women’s Media Foundation (IWMF) to identify the most-urgent cases for the list, which is updated and published on the first day of every month. News organizations throughout the world can join the Coalition by emailing info@onefreepresscoalition.com.


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