Fang Bin, a Chinese citizen journalist who made headlines in early 2020 for his coverage of the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan, China, has been released from prison after spending three years behind bars. His release was reported by foreign media outlets, including the BBC, on May 3, 2023.
Fang gained international attention in February 2020, when he shared footage of the dire situation in Wuhan, the epicenter of the pandemic at the time. He filmed outside hospitals and captured images of body bags being moved to funeral homes. Fang’s videos were widely circulated on social media, and he quickly became a prominent figure in the global conversation about the virus.
However, Fang’s reporting led to his arrest by Chinese authorities on February 9, 2020. He livestreamed his own detention on social media, which helped to generate further public attention and outcry. Fang was subsequently tried and sentenced to three years in prison for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” a common charge used against dissidents and activists in China.
Fang’s release is a welcome development for those who have followed his story. However, it is worth noting that he is just one of several citizen journalists who have been targeted by Chinese authorities for their reporting on the pandemic. Jang Zhan, a former lawyer who criticized the Wuhan lockdown, was arrested in May 2020 and sentenced to four years in prison. Chen Qiushi, another citizen journalist, was missing for over a year before resurfacing in early 2021.
Despite the risks, citizen journalists like Fang Bin, Jang Zhan, and Chen Qiushi have played an important role in exposing the truth about the COVID-19 outbreak in China. Their reporting has helped to hold authorities accountable and shed light on the human toll of the pandemic. Fang’s release is a small victory, but it is a reminder of the ongoing struggle for press freedom and human rights in China.