Former human rights lawyer and famous citizen journalist Chen Quishi arrived in Wuhan city, the center of the coronavirus outbreak, on January 24, 2020, to report from inside the quarantined city.
Although the first case of the coronavirus emerged on December 8, Chinese media outlets only started covering the news on December 31, and the real scale of the outbreak came on January 20 when prominent Chinese pulmonologist Dr. Zhong Nanshan admitted that the outbreak had entered the human-to-human transmission stage. After Beijing announced Wuhan’s city-wide quarantine on January 23, the independent journalist circle was worried that no one would report on the situation in the sealed city.
Chen built his reputation by covering the Hong Kong protests in August. Though he was harassed and silenced by Chinese authorities after his trip to Hong Kong, he continued speaking out using Twitter and YouTube.
Below is a summary of his reports from the center of the epidemic outbreak from January 24 to February 2.
January 24: Information should travel faster than the virus
After arriving in Wuhan around 10 pm, Chen urged citizens to contact him via WeChat and promised to report on the real situation in Wuhan. He anticipated that the national security police would go after him and made three public promises: 1. He would not spread rumors, would not create social panic and would not cover up the truth; 2. He would protect himself and would not reach out to patients who were in serious condition; 3. Until the outbreak is under control, he would not leave Wuhan even if he caught the virus. He stressed that the spread of SARS (17 years ago) and the Wuhan coronavirus was due to a cover-up of the virus outbreak and the Chinese people should not repeat the same mistake; information should travel faster than the virus.