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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Olympic officials shoot down cancellation rumours amid coronavirus outbreak | Stuff.co.nz

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Tokyo Olympic organisers are trying to shoot down rumours that this year’s 2020 Games might be cancelled or postponed because of the spread of a new virus.

Japan has so far reported no deaths from the coronavirus that has killed more than 200 people in China. Japanese organisers have hesitated to say much for several days, but on Friday they addressed the rumours. So did the International Olympic Committee, which also has said little.

Olympic organisers have finally addressed rumours that the Tokyo Games could be cancelled due to the coronavirus.

The Olympics open on July 24, just under six months away.

“We have never discussed cancelling the games,” Tokyo organisers said in a statement to The Associated Press. “Tokyo 2020 will continue to collaborate with the IOC and relevant organisations and will review any countermeasures that may be necessary.”

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Rumours of a cancellation have spread in Japan with reports that the Swiss-based IOC has met with the World Health Organisation about the outbreak. The WHO has called the virus a global emergency.

“Preparations for Tokyo 2020 continue as planned,” the IOC said in a statement. “It is normal practice for the IOC to collaborate with all the main UN agencies, as necessary, in the lead up to the games and this naturally includes the WHO.”

Tokyo Governor Yuriko Koike, speaking earlier in the week to the heads of 62 municipalities, warned about the dangers. Japan has also urged citizens not to travel to China.

“We must firmly tackle the new coronavirus to contain it, or we are going to regret it,” she said.

Rumours have spread online with thousands of comments on Twitter under the hashtag in Japanese “Tokyo Olympic Cancelled”.

The Chinese city of Wuhan, the epicentre of the coronavirus, is pressing ahead with the construction of two purpose-built hospitals.

The IOC has faced challenges like this before, and carries insurance for such possibilities. It has cancelled Olympics during wartime, and faced boycotts in 1980 and 1984. It also held the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City just months after the 9-11 attacks in the United States.

The mosquito-borne Zika virus also cast a shadow over the run-up to the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.

The larger problem for the Olympics could come with qualifying events in China and elsewhere being cancelled or postponed. International federations will have to reschedule events and Chinese athletes could present extra challenges and screening.

World Athletics, the governing body of track and field, announced earlier in the week it was postponing the world indoor championships in Nanjing, China, until next year. The event had been scheduled for March 13-15.

Travel, screening and allaying fears are certain to be more complicated if the outbreak continues. The 11,000 athletes expected to compete at the Tokyo Olympics will also face pressure to stay safe.

Sponsors and television networks who have invested billions of dollars will also try to keep the games on track.

Demand for Olympic tickets in Japan is unprecedented, exceeding supply by at least 10 times. Organisers say 7.8 million tickets are being issued for the Olympics.

Organisers say they are spending about US$12.6 billion to put on the games. But a national audit bureau says the costs are twice that much.

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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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Maiduguri Airport Full After 70+ Jets for Nigeria PLC Arrive NNPC GMD Kid’s Wedding; Cops Lock Down Capital – NewsRescue.com

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by Abdulkareem Haruna

Residents of Maiduguri, Borno State, on Saturday, had a bitter experience commuting around the city as the police blocked major highways in the city for “federal government functionaries” attending a wedding.

Two children of the Group Managing Director (GMD) of Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Kyari Mele, wedded in Maiduguri on that day.

The wedding, which turned out to be the biggest social event so far held in the state this year, drew guests from across Nigeria.

At least 46 aircraft reportedly landed at the Maiduguri International Airport, most conveying guests to the ceremony. On a normal day, about five aircraft land at the airport.

But the event turned out to be a nightmare for motorists and locals in the state who woke up to see armed security personnel barricading roads in strategic locations in the state capital.

The police had on Tuesday issued a statement that they would be blocking routes on Saturday for federal government functionaries visiting the state.

UPDATE: Over seventy jets landed in Maiduguri International Airport from yesterday to today for GMD of NNPC children wedding others are asked to turn back due to shortage of space to land.

Source FAAN

— Mustapha Maina Umar (@MustaphaMainaUm)

The statement, signed by police spokesperson in the state, Edet Okon, did not state the nature of the visit of the functionaries.

Mr Okon, a deputy superintendent of police, said in the statement that the roads were closed for security purposes.

“This is to inform the general public that, owing to the expected visit of Federal Government functionaries and other dignitaries to the State, the following roads will be partially and temporarily closed to traffic on Saturday, 28th December 2019.”

He went on to list how each of the major routes leading from the airport to different locations would be shut down till the guest leave.

“One lane of the Maiduguri-Kano Road – particularly the left lane when coming from Airport Roundabout up to Horseman Roundabout; and the right lane when moving from Horseman Roundabout through Sir Kashim Ibrahim Way/Dandal Road up to the Shehu’s palace, ” he said.

“One lane of Mai Ibrahim road and Shehu Laminu way (Polo Road)– particularly the right lane from Horseman Roundabout to the Government House.

“Also, there will be road diversion at Horseman Roundabout, Damboa Road Junction along Mai Ibrahim Road, Bolori Roundabout and at Dandal Police Station; while the West-End part of the UBA roundabout will be completely closed.

“To this end, motorists are advised to stick to the lane that will be open to traffic or to explore alternative routes for the period that the temporary closure will be in force.”

The development caused a lot of discomfort to road users especially those out to attend other events.

On a normal day, Maiduguri records a high rate of vehicular movements due to the large presence of displaced persons from various parts of the state.

The development had stirred public anger in the state capital as many residents took to social media to vent their frustration.

Some commentators wondered why the public highways would be shut down or blocked when the event in question was not a state function.

A Facebook user, Usman Alkali, said on his page that “While issuing his vote of thanks to the Who-Is-Who that grace the wedding of his children, the GMD should likewise tender his sincere apologies to the hundreds of thousands of Who -Is-Not that suffered inconveniences as a result.”

Haliru Musa wrote on a Facebook post celebrating the wedding that, “The poor mass and good people of Maiduguri were oppressed by the high and mighty in the state capital just because the son of a rich man is getting married all the major roads in the metropolis were shut down. We shall all meet in heaven.”

Habila Mutah said on Facebook that “I can’t understand why people don’t like the truth!”

“The poor people’s right has been trampled upon Today and looks at how people suffered today just because of marriage and yet others are trying to support simply because they have a position in government. Hmmm! God is watching oo!!”

Ali Mustapha commented on a Facebook photo post of the wedding that Borno people would prefer to enjoy the benefits of Mr Kyari’s position.

“How good (it would be) if we feel the impact of his position as NNPC GMD the way we felt his children wedding in Maiduguri with the attendant inconvenience of holdup and roadblock….”

Another Facebook comment by an obviously unimpressed Dawud Abana reads: “Since his appointment, the only good news he takes to his home town (is) guest of his daughter’s wedding hmmm… No news of drilling Borno oil No reasonable plan for his people.”

There were several wedding ceremonies that took place in Maiduguri on Saturday. The restriction of movement imposed by the police for only one of the events thus upset many in the town.

“I had about six weddings lined up for me to attend, but I could only attend one because the roads were blocked,” said Ibrahim Habib, a businessman in Maiduguri.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of NewsRescue

Such mass closure of roads in Maiduguri normally occur when top public officers like the president or the vice president, and some times, the Chief of Defence Staff, visit the state capital for state functions.

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