Three internet activists disappear in China

Updated 28 Apr 2020

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The activists archived censored Covid-19 news stories. — AP/File
The activists archived censored Covid-19 news stories. — AP/File

BEIJING: Three Beijing-based internet activists have disappeared and are believed to be detained by police for archiving censored coronavirus news stories online, according to a relative.

China has faced criticism over its handling of the outbreak, including punishing whistleblowers who tried to warn about the new virus.

Chen Mei, Cai Wei and his girlfriend surnamed Tang — who contributed to the crowd-sourced project on the software development platform GitHub — went missing on April 19, according to Chen’s brother Chen Kun.

The volunteer-driven project, named Terminus2049, preserved articles that were blocked or removed from mainland news outlets and social media by China’s aggressive online censorship.

The activists archived censored Covid-19 news stories

Two of the volunteers, Cai and Tang, were charged with “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” and are currently under “residential surveillance at a designated location”, according to a notice from Beijing’s Chaoyang District police received by their families, and seen by AFP.

Chen Kun said that he is still waiting for on official confirmation from Chaoyang police that his younger brother, aged 26, has been detained.

“I understand that Cai and Tang disappeared around the same time as Chen Mei,” Chen said.

“Given that both Chen and Cai were contributors to the Terminus2049 project, we suspect their disappearance was related and relevant to the project.” The online project included many sensitive stories published in recent months, such as personal narratives by Wuhan citizens and an infamous interview with Wuhan Central Hospital doctor Ai Fen, one of the earliest virus whistleblowers.

Published in Dawn, April 28th, 2020