A Chinese whistleblower who exposed the Wuhan Covid outbreak has resurfaced 18 months after he was feared being kidnapped.
Chen Qiushi, in his mid-thirties, disappeared in early February last year as the virus spread around the world.
He had not been heard from since, although reports suggested he was allowed to return to his parents in Qingdao, northern China, last September.
But the citizen journalist and former human rights lawyer has now resurfaced in a YouTube livestream with martial artist Xu Xiaodong.
During the 30-minute clip, Mr. Qiushi said, according to the Wall Street Journal, “I’ve been through a lot in the past year and eight months. Some of it can be talked about, some of it not. I believe you understand.’
He is one of three whistleblowers who disappeared in the early days of the pandemic after trying to warn the world about the outbreak in Wuhan.
Li Zehua, in his mid-20s, was chased and then kidnapped in Wuhan on February 6 after posting videos claiming that the Wuhan Institute of Virology was the source of the virus outbreak. But the former Chinese TV anchor reappeared two months later.
Fang Bin, a resident of Wuhan, went missing on Feb. 9 after posting videos showing piles of bodies being seeded and loaded onto buses at city hospitals. He has not been seen since.
Former human rights lawyer and citizen journalist Chen Qiushi (left) has resurfaced for the first time in 18 months. He was featured in a YouTube livestream with martial artist Xu Xiaodong
Mr Qiushi spent about two weeks on the ground in Wuhan, the epicenter of the pandemic, to expose the extent of the crisis
He also posted on his Twitter account that he hopes to host a charity martial arts competition
During the YouTube Livestream, Mr. Qiushi said little about his disappearance.
He spoke mainly about the health benefits of martial arts and said he hoped to organize a charity competition involving the sport.
Mr. Xiaodong, a Chinese martial artist nicknamed “mad dog”, and Mr. Qiushi seem to have been friends for a long time.
Where is Chen Qiushi located? A timeline of his disappearance
February 6, 2020 — Chen Qiushi disappears after reporting about the Covid outbreak in Wuhan.
The Chinese authorities reportedly informed his family that he was being held for a Covid quarantine.
February 7, 2020 — His mother posts a video on his Twitter account calling for her son to come home.
September 24, 2020 — Mr. Qiushi reportedly lives with his parents in Qingdao, a city on the Chinese coast near Korea.
They added that he was “in good health” but under state supervision.
March 31, 2021 — An old friend and martial artist Xu Xiaodong says that Mr. Qiushi lives with his parents.
But in the video posted online, he adds that authorities are closely monitoring both Mr Qiushi and his parents.
September 30, 2021 — A live stream posted on Mr. Xiaodong’s YouTube account shows him with Mr. Qiushi.
The citizen journalist and former human rights lawyer says in the video: ‘I have been through a lot in the past year and eight months. Some of it can be talked about, some of it not. I believe you understand.’
In March this year, Mr. Xiaodong posted a video saying that Mr. Qiushi was with his parents, but under close surveillance by Chinese state security.
Mr. Qiushi has also posted on his old Twitter account, which has counted every day since his disappearance.
His last tweet was posted on what would have been day 602 of his disappearance.
It said, ‘Hello, I’m Qiushi! That is a long time ago!
“I plan to organize a benefit match on New Year’s Eve, December 31, 2021. Contact person: Douyin quanjishou999.’
Douyin is the Chinese name for the social media company TikTok. The Douyin account that Mr. Qiushi advertised has already been blocked.
Mr. Qiushi spent about two weeks at the epicenter of the pandemic in Wuhan, arriving just before the city was shut down in hopes of telling the truth.
His reports contain horrific scenes, including a woman frantically calling family on her phone while sitting next to a family member who is dead in a wheelchair and the helpless plight of patients in the congested hospitals.
He planned to visit a ‘fang cang’ makeshift hospital before vaporizing.
His disappearance was revealed by a message on his Twitter account, which was managed by a friend who was authorized to speak on his behalf.
His mother posted a video calling for his safe return days later.
In a message about a week before his disappearance, he said: ‘I’m not even afraid of death. Do you think I’m afraid of you, Communist Party?’
A police officer who was asked about Mr Qiushi’s disappearance at the Wuhan Municipal Public Security Bureau said he was not authorized to comment, the Wall Street Journal reports.
US Congressman Jim Banks called for an investigation into the disappearance of the three citizen journalists in March last year.
The then Chinese ambassador to the US, Cui Tiankai, said in an interview last year that he had never heard of Qiushi and urged the US to “respect (China’s) judicial procedures”.
Fang Bin (pictured), a Wuhan resident, went missing on Feb. 9 after releasing a series of videos, including one showing piles of bodies being loaded onto a bus. Nothing more has been heard of him since then
Li Zehua (pictured) is a former CCTV reporter who disappeared on February 26. He reappeared with his family last April
Chinese authorities faced an explosion of public anger after the death of local doctor Li Wenliang, who was punished for warning a friend about the new virus.
In response, they sent hundreds of journalists to Wuhan and stepped up online censorship.
Mr Zehua, who has now resurfaced, was a former broadcaster on CCTV but reported independently from Wuhan.
He visited a series of sensitive sites in Wuhan, such as the community that held a huge banquet despite the epidemic and the crematorium that hired additional staff to help carry corpses, RFA added.
The news channel said Li was likely targeted by the secret police after a visit to the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
The beleaguered institution has been at the center of allegations of a possible lab leak, which is feared to have caused the pandemic.
A US report investigating whether the outbreak was due to a lab leak or natural origin said it could not rule out the theory.
Mr Bin, a resident of Wuhan, went missing on Feb. 9 after he released a series of videos, including one showing piles of bodies being loaded onto a bus.
He was arrested shortly before he disappeared, it is alleged.
His latest video showed officers wearing a hazmat knocking on his door to measure his body temperature.
The video shows Fang trying to fend off the agents by telling them his temperature is normal, according to Radio Free Asia (RFA).