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China: Fang Bin citizen journalist & COVID whistleblower returns home to Wuhan after release from jail

Twitter: @the_news_21

Fang Bin, a citizen journalist who documented the early days of the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan, has been released from jail after being sentenced to three years at a secret trial in February 2020.

Fang is one of several reporters who disappeared after sharing videos from Wuhan, which was the epicentre of the pandemic. His release was welcomed by activists, but there are concerns about the fate of another whistleblower, Zhang Zhan, a former lawyer who was jailed for four years in December 2020 for the same offence as Fang, stated a BBC report.

Reportedly, two other citizen reporters, Chen Qiushi and Li Zehua, also disappeared in Wuhan in February 2020, but resurfaced months later. Their videos provided a rare glimpse into Wuhan during the early months of the pandemic, as officials gave little information about the situation.

Despite the country reporting over 120,000 deaths from COVID since the start of the pandemic, China’s top leaders declared a “decisive victory” over the virus in February 2023. Fang’s release came without warning as China attempts to move on from the pandemic.

However, a new history textbook highlights the government’s achievements in coordinating the prevention and control of the pandemic. China’s swift censorship means that the videos and accounts shared by Fang and others will likely fade from memory.

According to Yanzhong Huang, senior fellow for global health at the Council on Foreign Relations, people in China want to move on and leave the past behind, as they yearn for a return to a more normal way of life. However, this desire to move on is also driven by the lack of public discussion or debate.

While society is revising the memory of the pandemic, not everyone in Wuhan has forgotten what life was like in early 2020, stated the report.

A resident in China, who chose to remain anonymous, was unaware of Fang Bin but remembered the late Dr. Li Wenliang who tried to warn the world about the coronavirus. He spoke of how society is changing its memory of the pandemic. He recalled living with his anxious mother during the lockdown, who still fears the virus.

Yang Min, a mother who lost her only child to COVID-19, still fights to hold officials accountable and seeks to file a lawsuit against the local government. Despite being under surveillance, she remains fearless.


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