The coronavirus continues to devastate the world. The latest tally from Johns Hopkins University reveals that the global caseload is now past 2.1 million, four months after it was first detected in the Chinese city of Wuhan.
According to Beijing’s official timeline, however, the last part of that sentence should be revised to “late December 2019, after which it shared the results to the World Health Organization” as it attempts to rewrite the coronavirus narrative. The government has been aggressively pushing its “mask diplomacy strategy” in Eastern Europe, with leaders from Serbia, Hungary and the Czech Republic heaping praises on China.
Where’s Waldo, the whistleblower edition
Back home, authorities are still hard at work, silencing whistleblowers or, like what happened with Dr. Li Wenliang, spinning the narrative in their favor. On April 2, the Chinese Communist Party named Li – the whistleblower doctor who sounded the alarm on coronavirus before dying from the disease in February – a “martyr,” the highest honor the party can confer on a citizen who died working to serve China.
The same can’t be said for two other whistleblowers, who also exposed the gaps in Beijing’s response to the coronavirus outbreak, and remain missing to this day.
Chen Qiushi and Fang Bin vanished from the public sight in February after uploading videos that showed the situation in Wuhan. Another whistleblowing doctor, Ai Fen, was noted to be unreachable from March 29, but has since been confirmed to be working again at Wuhan Hospital this weekend.
According to Pierre Haski, president of Reporters Without Borders, while the information of the current whereabouts of the two is very limited, he is certain that they are in “the hands of the Chinese authorities.”
Chen, a human rights lawyer and a citizen journalist, arrived at Wuhan on Jan. 24, a day after the city was placed on lockdown. In Wuhan, he captured footage of overflowing hospitals, funeral homes and isolation wards, offering a glimpse into the grim reality of the pandemic’s epicenter.
By Feb. 6, Chen’s Weibo account had been deleted and his parents had been notified by authorities he had been put in quarantine, despite being in good health. He hasn’t been seen since.
Who can tell us where and how Chen Qiushi is now? When will anyone get to speak with him again?— 陈秋实（陳秋實） (@chenqiushi404) April 16, 2020
Chen Qiushi has been out of contact for 69 days after covering coronavirus in Wuhan. Please save him!!!@POTUS@Mike_Pence@SecPompeo@marcorubio#FindQiushi https://t.co/nyKyjGyLKV
Bin, a clothing store manager from Wuhan, went missing on Feb. 9. Before he vanished, he posted a series of videos that showed piles of dead bodies found in front of or inside a city hospital. His last video showed men in protective suits knocking on his door to measure his body temperature. In the video, Bin was shown trying to fend off authorities by saying that his temperature was normal.
“His family remains, to this day, without news,” Haski said.
Extra checks, approvals in place for coronavirus research
In addition, the Chinese government has imposed new restrictions on scientists looking to study how COVID-19 originated. Experts believe this is another attempt to control the narrative when it comes to the global pandemic. Under the new guidelines, all papers that explore the origins of the coronavirus will be subject to extra vetting and should be approved by the government.
Prior to the new directive, Chinese researchers had already published studies criticizing the government’s initial action of the crisis.
In an interview with CNN, a researcher, who wished to remain anonymous for fear of government reprisal, accused the government of trying to “control [the] narrative” and “paint it as if the outbreak did not originate in China.”
The instructions were first published on Fudan University‘s website before it was taken down. A similar notice also appeared on the pages of the China University of Geoscience, which was also deleted.