COVID-19 whistleblower returns home to Wuhan after jail

Fang Bin, who documented the initial COVID-19 pandemic outbreak in the Chinese city of Wuhan, has been freed from jail after three years, sources told the BBC.

Mr Fang is one of several so-called citizen journalists who disappeared after sharing videos of scenes in Wuhan, the epicentre of the pandemic.

After disappearing in February 2020, he was sentenced to three years in jail at a secret trial in Wuhan, sources said. He was released on Sunday and is in good health, they added.

Mr Fang is now back home in Wuhan. The BBC could not reach his family for comment.

The video that caught the attention of the outside world was one where he counted eight body bags outside a COVID-19 hospital in the space of five minutes.

He said he was detained that night but released. Then came a video with the message: “All people revolt – hand the power of the government back to the people”. That was the last video he shared.

Although activists have welcomed his release, they are concerned about the fate of another whistleblower – Zhang Zhan, a 39-year-old former lawyer, who was detained in May 2020 and jailed for four years in December 2020.

Like Mr Fang, she too was convicted for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”, according to activists who say the vague offence has often been used against critics of China’s government.

Cases were climbing and lockdowns had come into force, but information from officials remained scarce. Wuhan’s 76-day lockdown – which inspired the country’s harsh zero-COVID-19 strategy – put the city under severe strain. -BBC.

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