The Chinese blogger Fang Bin, who documented the beginnings of the corona pandemic in Wuhan, has been released after three years in prison. The "citizen journalist" was arrested in February 2020 after posting videos of body bags and overcrowded hospitals in the central Chinese metropolis. As the US broadcaster Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported on Wednesday, the authorities do not want him in Wuhan or in the capital Beijing after his release, where the 48-year-old tried to stay with his children in vain.
Through his dramatic videos, the world got a first impression of the severity of the viral disease. However, the shopkeeper was sentenced to three years in prison in December on charges of "starting a fight and provoking trouble". Fang Bin was released on Sunday.
Activists pointed to the similar case of 39-year-old Zhang Zhan. The lawyer was even sentenced to four years in prison in December 2020 because she also reported on the virus outbreak. After her arrest in May 2020, according to press reports, Zhang Zhan went on a hunger strike, was force-fed at times and lost weight to 40 kilograms.
After the then still unknown, devastating viral disease was initially largely covered up in Wuhan at the end of 2019, a lockdown was imposed on the eleven million metropolis at the end of January 2020. However, China's subsequent zero-Covid strategy, with the country being isolated, curfews, forced quarantine and mass testing, became difficult to maintain with the arrival of the much faster-spreading omicron virus variant since the beginning of 2022.
In an abrupt turn, the zero-tolerance policy was abandoned in December 2022, despite the fact that the elderly population in particular was under-vaccinated and hospitals were caught unprepared. A massive corona wave rolled through January and February through the 1.4 billion population.
Officially, China has only reported around 120,000 corona deaths to the World Health Organization (WHO), almost half of them this winter. However, various foreign estimates assume around one million deaths.