Citizen journalist resurfaces two months after ‘disappearing’ in Wuhan


A citizen journalist who went missing while reporting on the coronavirus in the Chinese city of Wuhan, where the outbreak emerged in December, finally resurfaced Wednesday — saying he’d been forcibly quarantined by police.

Li Zehua was last seen on Feb. 26 when he live-streamed an hour long video in which he was chased by a white SUV and ended when several agents entered his apartment.

The video sparked serious concerns for the citizen journalist who had been reporting from the front lines in Wuhan during some of the worst weeks of the epidemic.

At least three men entered his apartment, identifying themselves as public security. Li then went with them to a local police station where he was told he was being investigated on charges of disrupting public order.

Police later said they would not charge him but because he had visited “sensitive epidemic areas” he would need to undergo quarantine.

Li, who had to give his devices over to a friend, spent the next month in quarantine in Wuhan and then in his hometown in a different province. He was served three meals a day, monitored by security guards and able to watch state broadcaster CCTV’s evening newscast.

“Throughout the whole time, the police acted civilly and legally, making sure I had rest and food. They really cared about me,” he said. Li said he was released on 28 March and has been spending time with his family. He wished those who suffered during the epidemic a fast recovery. “May God bless China and the people of the world unite.”

Li’s tone and comments, neutral and patriotic, were markedly different from his previous videos. Li, who had worked for the state-broadcaster CCTV, travelled to Wuhan to report on the crisis after another citizen journalist and activist Chen Qiushi disappeared.

In his videos, he reported on a local neighbourhood committee’s efforts to cover up new infections and interviewed sick residents. He visited a crematorium where a worker said people were being paid more to transport bodies.

At the time Li said: “I don’t want to remain silent, or shut my eyes and ears. It’s not that I can’t have a nice life, with a wife and kids. I can. I’m doing this because I hope more young people can, like me, stand up.”

Yet, in closing his video on Wednesday, Li quoted a line from a Confucian text about staying true to one’s beliefs. “The human heart is unpredictable, restless. Its affinity to what is right is small. Be discriminating, be uniform so that you may hold fast,” he said. (Source: The Guardian)