(p. A11) HONG KONG — The beige van squatted outside of a Wuhan hospital, its side and back doors ajar. Fang Bin, a local clothing salesman, peered inside as he walked past. He groaned: “So many dead.” He counted five, six, seven, eight body bags. “This is too many.”
That moment, in a 40-minute video about the coronavirus outbreak that has devastated China, propelled Mr. Fang to internet fame. Then, less than two weeks later, he disappeared.
Days earlier, another prominent video blogger in Wuhan, Chen Qiushi, had also gone missing.
. . .
The disappearance of the two men . . . underscores that the ruling Communist Party has no intention of loosening its grip on free speech.
China’s leader, Xi Jinping, said last month that officials needed to “strengthen the guidance of public opinion.” While Chinese social media has overflowed with fear and grief, state propaganda outlets have emphasized Mr. Xi’s steady hand, framed the fight against the outbreak as a form of patriotism and shared upbeat videos of medical workers dancing.
. . .
As time went on, Mr. Chen, usually energetic, began to show strain. “I am scared,” he said on Jan. 30 . “In front of me is the virus. Behind me is China’s legal and administrative power.”
The authorities had contacted his parents to ask for his whereabouts, he said. He teared up suddenly. Then, his finger pointing at the camera, he blurted: “I’m not even scared of death. You think I’m scared of you, Communist Party?”
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(Note: the online version of the story was updated Feb. 21 [sic], 2020, and has the title “They Documented the Coronavirus Crisis in Wuhan. Then They Vanished.”)