A local aid worker said that citizen journalist Fang Bin is allegedly being jailed in a local detention center for undisclosed charges two years after his forced disappearance by Chinese authorities for reporting on the early COVID-19 oubreak in Wuhan. However, authorities refuse to officially verify his whereabouts.
The source, who declined to be identified for safety concerns, confirmed to The Epoch Times on Feb. 9 that the recent rumor about Fang being kept in the Jiang’an District Detention House is correct.
“The tip came from one of our fellow members in a mutual aid group who is tasked with contacting Fang’s family,” said the volunteer aid worker. “However, the local authorities warned them against depositing money for him over there, sending him clothes, speaking up for him, or authorizing any lawyer to represent him.”
Currently, Fang’s family is hesitant to hire a defense counsel to intervene in his case due to pressure from authorities.
The Epoch Times reached the local prosecutor’s office by phone for comment. “I cannot disclose anything regarding the case of Fang Bin,” replied the receiver. “Nor can I put you through to the head of [our] prosecutor’s office.”
The Epoch Times also repeatedly tried to reach the court and detention house in the same jurisdiction but without success.
Fang was a citizen journalist to cover the chaos in Wuhan in the early days of the pandemic, while authorities sought to downplay the severity of the situation.
On Feb. 1, 2020, Fang posted a video clip that he said showed eight new body bags that had been removed from the No. 5 Wuhan People’s Hospital within five minutes. Footage such as this challenged official narratives that the outbreak was under control.
Police officers took him away that day but had to release him under pressure. Two days later, they again showed up at his home and harassed him.
After that, he began posting daily video clips as a form of reporting his safety to the outside world. In his clips, he said that tyranny was more destructive to the public than the virus.
Five days later, local authorities and police officers launched a joint operation against Fang. They broke into his home and forcibly took him away.
Since then, his whereabouts have been unknown until recently, nearly two years later.
Fang was not the only citizen journalist that Chinese authorities have detained for reporting on the early stages of the pandemic. Others include Chen Qiushi, Li Zehua, and Zhang Zhan. Right now, only Fang Bin and Zhang Zhan remain jailed.
Ann Lau, chair of Los Angeles-based rights group Visual Artists Guild, confirmed in an interview with The Epoch Times on Feb. 10 that Fang is being kept in the Jiang’an District Detention House.
“The problem with the government of China is that the first reaction is always how to cover up,” said Lau. “It’s just the Chinese government’s culture. They are so afraid of making a mistake.”
Meanwhile, Lau worries that Chinese authorities will never release the human rights defender just as they dealt with famous dissident Liu Xiaobo who remained imprisoned until his death from liver cancer in July 2017.
Li Xi contributed to this report.