B1 Intermediate US 39 Folder Collection
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- [Narrator] This video was filmed at a hospital in Wuhan,
the center of the coronavirus epidemic.
(speaking in foreign language)
And this is footage of a hospital under construction.
(speaking in foreign language)
Behind the camera are two vloggers,
who have become sensations in China.
Fang Bin is a resident of Wuhan
and Chen Qiushi, a human rights lawyer.
The two vloggers who were known in China
as citizen journalists published unfiltered video reports
as the crisis unfolded in late January and early February,
scenes that haven't appeared
in China's tightly controlled state media.
(speaking in foreign language)
But they stopped posting videos in early February.
(scuffling)
Fellow activists and relatives said they have disappeared.
(speaking in foreign language)
Chen's mother posted a video
saying she wasn't able to contact her son,
according to a friend, the police told Chen's father,
that his son was held in quarantine.
Activists say neighbors of Fang
saw a uniformed and plain clothes police officers
take him away, the activists haven't seen him since.
Even if their images were only available online
for days or even hours, China experts say it is unusual
for Beijing authorities to let this form of open criticism
appear before censoring content
or clamping down on its creators.
Many citizens have spoken up from doctors and nurses
to people stuck at home and patients,
(speaking in foreign language)
challenging the official narrative
of hospitals being speedily built from scratch
and armies of volunteers
orderly working to contain the epidemic.
So how are these videos critical of authorities
getting out into the public?
Beijing officials have said there is a genuine desire
to promote accurate information about the epidemic
and block false reports that could increase panic.
Nonetheless the anger in China came to a tipping point
late January after people accused local authorities
of trying to cover up what was happening.
- [Bao] People was not informed in the three to four weeks.
What we have witnessed is the revolt of the Chinese people.
- [Narrator] Bao Pu publishes books from Hong Kong
on topics that are censored by Beijing.
He says people grew frustrated when they saw
the healthcare system was overwhelmed by the coronavirus,
especially after the SARS epidemic,
that took nearly 800 lives in 2002 and 2003.
- [Bao] People generally expect the government
have learned the lessons of the SARS epidemic,
so they should have developed various mechanisms
to prevent that from ever happening.
- [Narrator] Pu says the speed
at which the criticism piled up online might be too hard
for China's censorship apparatus to manage
and that is one reason Chinese citizens
have managed to share content online.
Tens of millions have been stuck at home
leading to a surge in the number of people
reading and using social media.
Another explanation according to researchers
might be that in this situation,
Beijing needs information to keep flowing.
- Because this is a health crisis,
people also need to talk about supplies and access
and they need to be able to discuss this,
otherwise they're kind of stuck at home in quarantine zones
and it becomes really insufferable,
so they can't completely censor all discussions.
- [Narrator] Maria Repnikova analyzes
how Beijing censors its citizens
and says she believes the government
intentionally opened the doors to criticism.
- It's useful in some ways to learn about what's happening,
while it's only the early stages of the crisis,
the state officials at the local central level
still don't quite know what are the bigger issues,
what are the big frustrations,
it's kind of a way to get public opinion on this,
try to understand the grievances and then respond to that.
- [Narrator] Repnikova has interviewed
over 100 Chinese journalists and officials about big crises
like mining disasters or the 2008 Sichuan earthquake.
She noticed there's a limited window of opportunity
for journalists to cover these events
and citizens to complain.
Repnikova says during the Sichuan earthquake,
the government started to tape mouths shut,
when journalists reported that poorly built schools
had contributed to the deaths of hundreds of children.
In Wuhan, Fang Bin was able to publish
33 videos in 16 days on YouTube.
One video he posted online shows that he had run ins
with people who identified themselves
as local health officials,
who wanted to check Fang's health,
because he had visited a hospital.
(speaking in foreign language)
(scuffling)
Fang said the men confiscated his computer and phone,
then drove him to the outskirts of the city
to continue questioning him,
activists say he disappeared a week later.
(sobbing)
A Chinese diplomat was asked about Fang
during a TV interview.
- So I believe the relevant authorities
and departments in China, the legal departments
are dealing with the case in accordance with law.
(speaking in foreign language)
- [Narrator] Authorities have made no public statement
about Chen's disappearance or Fang's whereabouts.
The disappearance of both men in early February
happened around the time when the death toll in China
came closer to surpassing the one from SARS.
This is also approximately when Beijing
began ramping up efforts to create a new narrative
that things were under control.
Even though Chinese officials have continually offered
assurances that the epidemic is being successful managed,
(speaking in foreign language)
state controlled media have now put the blame
on local authorities for a slow response
to contain the outbreak in Wuhan,
while praising central authorities
for quickly pouring resources into the center of the crisis.
- Many of these crises are also opportunities
for political systems to come out as the winners or victors
or kind of as being in charge of this state of affairs.
- [Narrator] About a month
after the disappearance of Chen and Fang,
health officials said the number of new infections
had fallen dramatically in China,
authorities reported new infections in double digits,
down from hundreds of cases a day.
The outcry on Chinese social media, even if short lived
shows that many people in the country don't buy
the government's message that the crisis is under control.
(somber string music)
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Coronavirus Critics Disappear in China | WSJ

39 Folder Collection
Mackenzie published on March 16, 2020
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