04/03/2020, 13.48
CHINA
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Ai Fen, the doctor who reported the epidemic, is missing

With her, the list of regime critics has been incommunicado during the crisis is getting longer. There is also no news about the billionaire who called Xi Jinping a "clown", and a student from Shandong who told China’s president to resign. Xu Zhiyong, Xu Zhangrun and He Weifang have suffered the same fate.

Beijing (AsiaNews) – Ai Fen, the Wuhan doctor who blew the whistle the coronavirus outbreak, has gone missing. She is believed to be in detention for her essay in Renwu (China’s People) magazine. The piece, which appeared on 10 March, has since been deleted.

Ai first mentioned the new infection in a WeChat post on 30 December. Her superiors ordered her to keep quiet so as not to create panic, accusing her of being an informer.

According to 60 Minutes Australia, she has been held incommunicado since mid-March, when she reassured everyone on Weibo, the Chinese Twitter, that she was well and that she was back to work.

Soon after the show aired, Ai's Weibo account sent out a single, cryptic post that read “A river. A bridge. A road. A clock chime”. According to Radio Free Asia, the account is updated under police order to show that things are fine.

Ai shared sensitive information with her hospital colleagues, one of whom was Li Wenliang, who was later arrested by police for talking about the virus.

Li died from the infection on 7 February, followed by other doctors in Wuhan. For him, local officials could have intervened sooner and saved many more lives.

With Ai, the list of regime critics gone missing during the epidemic crisis has grown.

Ren Zhiqiang, a billionaire member of the Communist Party of China (CPC), rose to prominence on 12 March after he described Chinese President Xi Jinping as a "power hungry clown".

Ren slammed the government for its handling of the epidemic crisis, trade relations with the US and the Taiwan file. He is believed to be in detention in Taipingzhuang, a Beijing suburb.

A Shandong university student, Zhang Wenbin, disappeared on 30 March after posting a video calling on Xi to resign.

In the post, which received thousands of visits, Zhang praises the courage of the young people of Hong Kong and the people of Taiwan who oppose the Chinese Communist Party.

According to press reports, the student was arrested by the police for disturbing public order, a charge often made against those who peacefully challenge the regime.

Many intellectuals have also disappeared after attacking the government for its reaction to the outbreak.

Human rights activist Xu Zhiyong is in a secret prison for "inciting subversion of state power." He called on Xi to resign for his failures. Xu was arrested on 15 February in Guangzhou (Guangdong).

Since February, the whereabouts of Xu Zhangrun and He Weifang remain unknown. The two said that the lack of press freedom favoured the spread of the coronavirus.

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