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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Coronavirus spreads to more than 800 in China: First death outside epicentre | Stuff.co.nz

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China’s National Health Commission said Friday afternoon (NZ time) the confirmed cases of the new coronavirus had risen to 830 with 25 deaths.

The first death was also confirmed outside the central province of Hubei, where the capital, Wuhan, has been the epicentre of the outbreak.

The health commission in Hebei, a northern province bordering Beijing, said an 80-year-old man died after returning from a two-month stay in Wuhan to see relatives.

The vast majority of cases have been in and around Wuhan or people with connections the city. Other cases have been confirmed in the United States, Japan, Taiwan, South Korea and Thailand. Singapore and Vietnam reported their first cases Thursday, and cases have also been confirmed in the Chinese territories of Hong Kong and Macau.

Many countries are screening travellers from China for symptoms of the virus, which can cause fever, coughing, breathing difficulties and pneumonia.

The World Health Organisation has decided against declaring the outbreak a global emergency, a step that can bring more money and resources to fight a threat but that can also cause trade and travel restrictions and other economic damage, making the decision a politically fraught one.

The decision “should not be taken as a sign that WHO does not think the situation is serious or that we’re not taking it seriously. Nothing could be further from the truth,” WHO Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said. “WHO is following this outbreak every minute of every day.”

The coronaviruses are a family of viruses that originate in animals before making the jump to humans.

Chinese authorities moved to lock down at least three cities with a combined population of more than 18 million in an unprecedented effort to contain the deadly new virus that has sickened hundreds of people and spread to other parts of the world during the busy Lunar New Year travel period.

Chinese officials have not said how long the shutdowns of the cities will last. While sweeping measures are typical of China’s Communist Party-led government, large-scale quarantines are rare around the world, even in deadly epidemics, because of concerns about infringing on people’s liberties. And the effectiveness of such measures is unclear.

“To my knowledge, trying to contain a city of 11 million people is new to science,” said Gauden Galea, the WHO”s representative in China. “It has not been tried before as a public health measure. We cannot at this stage say it will or it will not work.”

GETTY IMAGES
People wear face masks as they wait at Hankou Railway Station in Wuhan

Jonathan Ball, a professor of virology at molecular virology at the University of Nottingham in Britain, said the lockdowns appear to be justified scientifically.

“Until there’s a better understanding of what the situation is, I think it’s not an unreasonable thing to do,” he said. “Anything that limits people’s travels during an outbreak would obviously work.”

But Ball cautioned that any such quarantine should be strictly time-limited. He added: “You have to make sure you communicate effectively about why this is being done. Otherwise you will lose the goodwill of the people.”

GETTY IMAGES
A resident wears a mask to buy vegetables in the market in Wuhan.

During the devastating West Africa Ebola outbreak in 2014, Sierra Leone imposed a national three-day quarantine as health workers went door to door, searching for hidden cases. Burial teams collecting corpses and people taking the sick to Ebola centres were the only ones allowed to move freely. Frustrated residents complained of food shortages.

In China, the illnesses from the newly identified coronavirus first appeared last month in Wuhan, an industrial and transportation hub. Local authorities demanded all residents wear masks in public places and urged civil servants wear them at work.

After the city was closed off Thursday, images showed long lines and empty shelves at supermarkets, as people stocked up. Trucks carrying supplies into the city are not being restricted, although many Chinese recall shortages in the years before the country’s recent economic boom.

Analysts predicted cases will continue to multiply, although the jump in numbers is also attributable in part to increased monitoring.

KEVIN FRAYER/GETTY IMAGES
A Chinese passenger that just arrived on the last bullet train from Wuhan to Beijing is checked for a fever by a health worker at a Beijing railway station.

“Even if (cases) are in the thousands, this would not surprise us,” the WHO’s Galea said, adding, however, that the number of infected is not an indicator of the outbreak’s severity so long as the death rate remains low.

The coronavirus family includes the common cold as well as viruses that cause more serious illnesses, such as the SARS outbreak that spread from China to more than a dozen countries in 2002-03 and killed about 800 people, and Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome, or MERS, which is thought to have originated from camels.

China is keen to avoid repeating mistakes with its handling of SARS. For months, even after the illness had spread around the world, China parked patients in hotels and drove them around in ambulances to conceal the true number of cases and avoid WHO experts. This time, China has been credited with sharing information rapidly, and President Xi Jinping has emphasised that as a priority.

Health authorities are taking extraordinary measures to prevent the spread of the virus, placing those believed infected in plastic tubes and wheeled boxes, with air passed through filters.

The first cases in the Wuhan outbreak were connected to people who worked at or visited a seafood market, now closed for an investigation. Experts suspect that the virus was first transmitted from wild animals but that it may also be mutating. Mutations can make it deadlier or more contagious.

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South Park creators give ‘official apology’ after reports the show was scrubbed from the Chinese internet

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(CNN)South Park creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker hit back at China after the government scrubbed the show from the Chinese internet.

“South Park” has never been afraid to be offensive, which is why the show now virtually no longer exists in China. Every clip, any online discussion from Chinese streaming services, social media and even fan pages have been deleted by the government, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Stone and Parker issued an apology on Monday after China’s crackdown — well, kind of.
    “Like the NBA, we welcome the Chinese censors into our homes and into our hearts,” they said in a statement on Twitter. “We too love money more than freedom and democracy.”
    Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey expressed support for Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests in a tweet on Sunday. The backlash came quickly: The Chinese Basketball Association said it would suspend all cooperation with the team, and China’s top state broadcaster announced that it would suspend airing Houston Rockets events on television.
    The NBA said Monday that it recognizes that Morey’s views “have deeply offended many of our friends and fans in China, which is regrettable.”
    South Park creators give 'official apology' after reports the show was scrubbed from the Chinese internet - CNN
    This isn’t the first time seemingly harmless content has become forbidden in China. After people online compared Winnie the Pooh and Tigger to Chinese President Xi Jinping and former President Barack Obama in 2017, the honey-loving teddy bear was banned from China’s cyberspace.
    The “South Park” creators ended their faux apology with a jab at Xi and China’s authoritarian government.
      “Xi doesn’t just look like Winnie the Pooh at all. Tune into our 300th episode this Wednesday at 10!” Stone and Parker’s statement continued. “Long live the Great Communist Party of China! May this autumn’s sorghum harvest be bountiful! We good now China?”
      Correction: This story was updated to reflect the South Park creators’ correct names.

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      The date which has both Hong Kong and Beijing on edge

      Asia

      Hong Kong (CNN)For months, October 1 has loomed over the mass pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong, as a whispered deadline for the ruling Chinese Communist Party to take action to end the unrest.

      It’s a significant milestone that China’s leaders will not want overshadowed by protests in Hong Kong, which have grown in intensity since mass demonstrations began in June.
      But what action the party might take is unclear and highly debated, with some even saying the greater threat will be after the anniversary, if protesters disrupt or distract from the day’s celebrations and embarrass the country’s Communist leaders.
        The Hong Kong government has said there is no such deadline for action by Beijing to end the protests. In audio leaked to Reuters, Hong Kong Chief Executive Carrie Lam can be heard reassuring business leaders that “they and ourselves have no expectations that we could clear up this thing before the 1st of October.”
        But the whispers have continued, with no clear consensus on what October 1 might mean for Hong Kong.
        Some predict that a military crackdown before October is inevitable, as Beijing seeks to save face. Others say that wanting to present a calm, united front in two weeks’ time is the only thing holding Beijing back.
        “The Chinese Communist Party will not allow any sign of a ‘step down’ around the moment of the 70th anniversary … They will do everything to make sure the situation stays under their control,” said 30-year-old protester David Wong.
        Hong Kong protests: The date which has Beijing on the edge - CNN

        Xi’s moment to shine

        Every country has important anniversaries or celebrations, but the Chinese Communist Party heavily politicizes dates such as this and uses them as opportunities to provide justification for the party’s ongoing mandate to govern.
        For instance, 2021 will be the 100th anniversary of the Communist Party. It’s also the self-imposed deadline for President Xi to deliver some of his signature achievements, such as eradicating all poverty and raise living standards to new heights.
        The 70th anniversary on October 1 will similarly be used by the government to highlight how far China has come economically and militarily since the party took power in 1949.
        news
        In the last 20 years alone, China’s wealth per adult has quadrupled, while its GDP has gone from just $150 billion in 1978 to over $12 trillion in 2018. Just over 30 million people are still living in poverty in China, down from 770 million 40 years ago.
        On the day itself, Xi is expected to address the nation and oversee a military parade through the streets of Beijing, followed by fireworks and cultural performances across the country.
        The celebrations in Hong Kong are expected to be muted in comparison. In the recording of Lam leaked to Reuters, she said that, given the recent “disruptions,” “we are going for a modest but solemn type of celebrations on the first of October.”
        The festivities also come at an important time for President Xi who is embroiled in a trade war with the United States, which has reverberated through global economy.
        Beijing has gone to vast lengths to ensure that the 70th celebrations go off without a hitch.
        Security has been tightened across the capital of Beijing and state media is promoting positive news stories about the government’s achievements. On television, popular dramas have even been banned in favor of patriotic films.
        In this atmosphere, headline-grabbing protests against the government in one of their most well-known cities will frustratingly complicate their narrative of a united and powerful country, happy under the Communist Party’s leadership.
        Asia

        What can they do though?

        But just three weeks out, it isn’t entirely clear what the Chinese government can do to prevent protesters from disrupting October 1 celebrations in Hong Kong.
        The protests have shown no signs of easing despite the Hong Kong government’s promise to withdraw the controversial China extradition bill that brought people onto the streets back in June.
        Some have speculated that Lam’s decision to announce the long-awaited withdrawal of the extradition bill was an attempt to ease tensions ahead of the important date. Many doubt that it will work.
        1. Fully withdraw the extradition bill
        2. Set up an independent inquiry to probe police brutality
        3. Withdraw the characterization of protests as “riots”
        4. Release those arrested at protests
        5. Implement universal suffrage in Hong Kong
        Protesters still have four key demands they say must be met before the unrest will end, including greater democracy in the Asian financial hub.
        In recent weeks, police have taken a hardline approach against violent protesters, arresting demonstrators in greater numbers and breaking up even small gatherings.
        But with more protests planned for this weekend, neither approach appears to have been successful so far.
        With no more concessions likely in the short term, the government could look to impose greater restrictions on protesters to try to pacify the city ahead of October 1.
        There have already been attempts to close down public transport stations close to planned protests, although it hasn’t proven successful as demonstrators have found alternate modes of transport to get around the restrictions.
        The possible deployment of Chinese troops on Hong Kong streets is regularly hinted at by Beijing. Officials have suggested the protests carry “terrorist” overtones and in the past two months, Chinese paramilitary police have held large drills across the border in the city of Shenzhen.
        But any military intervention appears to have been ruled out for now, according to the leaked recording from Lam.
        Little wonder, as it would be disastrous for not just Hong Kong but China more broadly. Investors would flee at the first sign of any military boots hitting the streets, something Beijing can’t risk as the domestic economy slows.
        As their options dwindle, Beijing may be forced to grin and bear a Hong Kong spoiler to their national day, but with the Communist Party’s pride at stake, any over-the-top October 1 protests could be met with an escalation from the government.
        After all, even minor attacks on the symbols of the Chinese government have been enough to provoke the fury in Beijing and state-run media.
          When protesters removed a Chinese national flag in the shopping district of Tsim Sha Tsui and threw it in Victoria Harbor, state-run media reacted with fury. State-run tabloid Global Times called for “justice (to) be served.”
          Beijing won’t forget quickly if Hong Kong embarrasses it during the Communist Party’s moment of triumph.

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