There is a figure that is not included in the newspaper coronavirus updates in China, the number of disappeared; activists, professors, lawyers and regular citizens who have been arrested by the police.
Some under the pretext of quarantine.
One of the most important disappearances was that of Chen Qiushi.
The city attorney and journalist went to Wuhan to report from the epicenter of the virus outbreak. For two weeks since the end of January he has published online videos and live streaming interviews with people affected by what he has called a tragedy that is unfolding before his eyes.
On February 6 he disappeared.
His parents were told that he had been placed in quarantine, but they have never seen or heard from him since, and his mother has even issued an online appeal for information, knowing that he has been arrested by the authorities.
Later came Fang Bin, a Wuhan resident, who became famous after a video showing several bodies taken away from a hospital in the city and the moment a man died in a ward inside.
After that video went viral, he filmed the first time the police came to his door, but he didn’t let them in. He continued to criticize the Communist Party on online video, but was taken away on February 10th.
It is especially worrying when even regular citizens who express opinions online can suddenly disappear in the midst of a national crisis. Others who have been similarly silenced are mostly explicit dissidents or professors.
Officers arrived at the door of Guo Quan, a Nanjing-based human rights activist after making comments in a WeChat group criticizing what he said was a “cover-up” of coronaviruses by the Communist Party.
Subsequently, Zhu Xinxin, a dissident writer in Hubei Province, was sentenced to ten days in administrative detention for the online comments he made condemning governments’ management of the epidemic.
Beijing law professor Xu Zhangrun was initially reported missing, but was later confirmed to be under house arrest after publishing a threatening essay attacking the government.
Entitled “Viral Alert: When Fury Overcomes Fear,” he condemned China’s “authoritarian” control system and severe censorship in the country. He blamed the political system for hindering efforts to contain the virus when it was first discovered in late 2019. He had also signed a letter asking for freedom of speech.
On February 15, activist Xu Zhiyong was arrested by police in Guangdong province. He published a blog on February 4 in which he invited President Xi Jinping to resign and criticized his management of the coronavirus epidemic.
In a subsequent blog, his last blog before he was detained, Xu mourned the death of medical informant Li Wenliang.
Hours after being taken away, his girlfriend, Li Qiaochu, a Beijing activist for women and workers’ rights, also disappeared.
Two people who spoke to ITV News during this outbreak to express their concerns were subsequently advised by the police not to speak to the media.
China is facing a huge challenge to contain and control the coronavirus.
It is also facing many public blame for its inability to act first. The government is going to the extreme to deal with this outbreak, with over half a billion people in some form of blockade and tens of thousands of doctors and military personnel mobilized and sent to Hubei province.
He hopes that this unprecedented response will regain the trust of his people.
But in the meantime, rumors of dissent, as well as the virus, must be contained.