After over three years in detention in China, Fang Bin, a citizen journalist who covered the early outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in Wuhan, has been set free by the Chinese authorities who had detained him. Authorities worked to stifle information about the true scope of the developing global emergency, Fang vanished after posting videos of the situation as it was occurring in the city in central China that served as the epicentre of the initial outbreak, CNN reported.
Fang Bin has been released after more than three years detention in China, a family member told CNN.
He was in Wuhan after being freed on Sunday, according to a family member who asked to remain anonymous out of fear of the consequences. Fang's health had deteriorated while he was being held, as he had difficulty in eating and sleeping and had lost weight. In contrast to the official story broadcast on China's carefully regulated state media, his films shared on social media in the early months of 2020 exposed the reality of the virus' fatal spread.
The city of Wuhan was completely locked down on January 23, 2020, but it had taken around three weeks between the announcement of a mysterious ailment and the confirmation that it was spreading among individuals. Fang, a garment vendor from Wuhan, depicted congested hospital hallways filled with patients and their anxious families in one of his videos, CNN reported.
Fang counts the body bags packed inside a van in one episode. This section received a lot of attention in China, where people were eager to learn what was occurring in the epicentre city. In his final films, Fang captured strangers knocking on his door to ask him questions and said that police officers were surrounding his home.
In one recording, he appeared emotional as he discussed the virus that killed COVID whistleblower doctor Li Wenliang - who was silenced by the police for disclosing information about early patients - and the silence of fellow citizen journalist Chen Qiushi, claiming that the reason he had not been arrested was because of the attention of his viewers.
In a video from February 9, Fang is heard saying, "Let's revolt—bring the power back to the people.” This is a remarkably uncommon public sentiment in China. This was his last video after which he disappeared, CNN reported.