Wang added: “So much about the coronavirus in China will never become known because the Chinese government has muzzled those trying to share critical information.”
HRW said Chinese authorities should “immediately and unconditionally” release Chen Mei, Cai Wei, and Cai’s partner, a woman surnamed Tang.
Chen and Cai are volunteers with a project called Terminus2049, a crowd-sourced project that archives censored materials from Chinese media outlets and social media on the open-source coding platform Github, which is not restricted by China’s Great Firewall.
The three were arrested in Beijing on April 19, with Cai and Tang being accused of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”—a catch-all charge that Chinese authorities often use against dissidents.
According to HRW, Cai and Tang were then placed under “residential surveillance in a designated location,” a form of enforced disappearance in which police can hold individuals in undisclosed locations for up to six months.
Access to Terminus 2049’s page was blocked in mainland China after the three were detained, the rights group stated.
HRW is also calling for the release of two citizen journalists who had been documenting the epidemic in the central city of Wuhan, where the virus first broke out.
“The two have not been heard from since and are considered to be forcibly disappeared,” HRW stated.
Banks said: “The United States should apply diplomatic pressure on the Chinese government to learn these journalists’ whereabouts and ensure their safety.”
Wang from HRW said “the lack of free flow of information about Covid-19 in China has contributed to a global pandemic.”
Wang concluded: “Governments around the world should press Beijing to release the wrongfully detained activists and citizen journalists immediately.”