A few weeks ago, the Supreme Prosecutor’s Office of China issued a statement explaining that 5,797 people had been arrested and 6,755 prosecuted for crimes related to the pandemic .
Notable among the cases mentioned was the arrest of a supermarket customer who beat to death another customer who had refused to cover his mouth and nose with a mask.
There were also the cases of a driver who ran over several health workers at a hospital, a group of people from social organizations accused of embezzling funds from the money raised to help patients, others who lied about their travel history so as not to enter quarantine and a few who were dedicated to selling defective medical equipment.
These were some of the examples of serious crimes collected by the Chinese prosecution.
However, what his statement did not mention was all those citizens who had been detained under the censorship of a regime that has wanted to control the coronavirus narrative since the first news began to come out in Wuhan at the end of December.
This week we learned what happened to Zhang Zhan , a 37-year-old lawyer who was arrested in May for “causing fights and problems.” In recent years, Zhang left office to be a “citizen journalist” , as some activists who come to cover certain events are known in China to broadcast them on their social networks.
Zhang was in Wuhan in February narrating what he saw at the epicenter of the pandemic.
But for the Chinese authorities, what he did was “send false information through texts and videos on WeChat, Twitter and YouTube . ” That is what she says in the indictment, which asks for five years in prison.
“It also accepted interviews from foreign media Free Radio Asia and The Epoch Times – two newspapers that Beijing considers Washington’s media arms – and maliciously speculated on the Covid-19 epidemic in Wuhan,” the writing continues.
Zhang is detained in Shanghai. He has been there for more than six months. According to the NGO Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD), the “citizen journalist” went on a hunger strike in September to protest her arrest.
“His reports from Wuhan included comments on the harassment of the authorities to the families of the victims who were looking for a real and detailed explanation of what had happened,” they tell from CHRD.
In his live broadcasts on YouTube, Zhang criticized the Chinese government for managing the pandemic, claiming that Wuhan residents were “harassed by the city police if they complained.”
Zhang also recounted in a couple of videos that other “independent reporters” like her had been arrested for reporting on Wuhan on the ground.
This was the case of Li Zehua , a Chinese blogger who disguised himself as a journalist to cover what was happening in Wuhan outside the information guidelines established from Beijing. Everything he saw, he recorded it and uploaded it to his YouTube channel .
Until he was arrested in his apartment on February 26 and nothing more was heard from him until the beginning of May, when he reappeared in a video explaining that the police forced him to quarantine in a Wuhan apartment, guarded 24 hours, until They released him at the end of March and he returned with his family to his hometown.
Li reappeared, but the one who has not yet heard from is another citizen journalist, Chen Qiushi , who was already famous for his videos during the Hong Kong protests, in which he criticized police actions to stop the demonstrations.
Chen arrived in Wuhan on January 24. “I will use my camera to document what is really happening.
I promise that I will not hide the truth,” he said in the first video he uploaded to YouTube. He was visiting collapsed hospitals and interviewing doctors early in the outbreak. His lead was lost on February 5 at Fangcang Hospital .
Two days later, his mother posted a video on Twitter in which she explained that her son had disappeared and asked for help finding him.
Four days after Chen disappeared, the trail of Fang Bin , a Wuhan textile merchant who had been posting videos on YouTube since January 25 , was also lost in which he narrated the daily life in the city.
Fang was accused of spreading “fake news”. Authorities did not like a video released on February 1 and bearing his signature, showing several bodies in sacks inside a van parked outside a hospital in Wuhan.
Fang also recorded scenes of patients lying on the floor of a hospital and an interview with a man who had just lost his father to the virus.
The police went looking for him at his apartment. Among the reasons for arresting him, the agents also said that he was suspected of receiving “money from foreign organizations to record videos.” Fang was released. But, after continuing to publish his videos on the networks, he disappeared permanently on February 9.
Another missing that month was a law professor and well-known activist named Xu Zhiyong , arrested for criticizing Beijing.
He wrote a letter calling on Chinese President Xi Jinping to resign for mishandling the coronavirus crisis. A month ago, the Chinese authorities issued a statement saying that Xu had been charged with “inciting the subversion of state power .
” According to a report by Amnesty International: “Xu Zhiyong’s arrest reflects that the fight against the coronavirus has not diverted the Chinese government one iota from its ongoing general campaign to suppress all dissenting voices and its relentless assault on freedom of expression.” .
A similar case is that of Xu Zhangrun , a law professor at Beijing’s Tsinghua University, who published an article critical of Xi Jinping in a US magazine earlier this year for his handling of the coronavirus crisis.
Xu wrote an essay against the regime’s censorship and calling for freedom of expression . “The coronavirus epidemic has revealed the rotten core of the Chinese government,” he said.
Several of his friends recounted that the professor had placed him under house arrest. In May, another essay was published with Xu’s signature saying that China was “backsliding towards the totalitarian government of Mao Zedong .”