Chen Qiushi

Chen Qiushi, a 34-year-old former lawyer, had vanished soon after he arrived in Wuhan in late January and shared dispatches online to inform the true scale of Wuhan's COVID-19 outbreak.
A Chinese citizen journalist who went missing in February while reporting the escalating coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan has been found staying with his parents under the Chinese government's close watch, reports say.

Chen Qiushi, a 34-year-old former lawyer, had vanished soon after he arrived in Wuhan in late January and shared dispatches online to inform the world about the true scale of the central Chinese city's COVID-19 outbreak.

Nearly eight months after Chen's disappearance, his close friend has reportedly revealed that the independent reporter is being held under 'supervised surveillance at designated residence' in the eastern Chinese city Qingdao.

The news comes as an outspoken Chinese tycoon who called President Xi a 'clown' over his handling of the country's coronavirus outbreak has been jailed for 18 years this week.

Chen arrived in Wuhan just before the city went into lockdown in hopes of providing the world with the truth of the epidemic, as he said himself.

His reports detailed horrific scenes - including a woman frantically calling family on her phone as she sits next to a relative lying dead in a wheelchair - and the helpless situation of patients in the overstretched hospitals.

His disappearance was revealed by a post on his Twitter account, which has been managed by a friend authorised to speak on his behalf.

His mother has posted a video calling for his safe return.

One post on his Twitter, posted in April, read: 'Who can tell us where and how Chen Qiushi is right now? When will anyone get to speak with him again? Chen Qiushi has been out of contact for 68 days after covering coronavirus in Wuhan. Please save him!!!'

On Thursday, Xu Xiaodong, Chen's friend and Chinese mixed-martial-arts star, said in a live-streamed YouTube video that Chen was 'in good health' but was still under supervision by a 'certain government department', according to South China Morning Post.

'The authorities have investigated his activities on the mainland, Hong Kong and Japan,' Xu said in the video.

'They are satisfied that he has no financial links with 'foreign forces', was not responsible for any subversive activities [and as a result decided] not to prosecute him.'

An anonymous human right lawyer also confirmed the citizen journalist's current location with the Hong Kong newspaper.

'[Chen] Qiushi, who is together with his parents, is under strict supervision by the authorities,' the lawyer said.

Another unnamed friend of Chen's told the Guardian that they were sure only that Chen was not free.

Chen is among the four Chinese citizen journalists who had vanished for publishing reports about Wuhan's epidemic on international social media outlets.

Fang Bin, a businessman, disappeared in early February and is believed to have been taken into state custody. Li Zehua, 25, also went missing in late February before re-appearing in late April.

Zhang Zhan, reportedly to be 40, was allegedly removed by police in June on suspicion of 'picking quarrels and provoking trouble', a broad-brush charge often used against activists.

China has reportedly harassed, threatened and silenced multiple citizens who vowed to hold the government responsible for its perceived missteps in dealing with the new coronavirus outbreak.

Other grieving Wuhan residents were allegedly hassled, intimidated and hushed by authorities after planning to draw up petitions against officials over their response to the health crisis.

Li Wenliang, an eye doctor in Wuhan, was given severe oral warnings by his boss and police officers after sending a message onto social media to warn other medics of a 'SARS-like' disease. The 34-year-old later died of COVID-19 after contracting it from a patient.

Ren Zhiqiang, an outspoken Chinese Communist Party critic and millionaire property tycoon, received a sentence of 18 years for corruption, bribery and embezzlement of public funds after he penned an essay fiercely critical of Xi's response to the outbreak, calling the leader 'a clown'.