April 28, 2020

THE CHINA COVID COVERUP: Chinese internet users who uploaded coronavirus memories to GitHub have been arrested.

A group of volunteers in China who worked to prevent digital records of the coronavirus outbreak from being scrubbed by censors are now targets of a crackdown.

Cai Wei, a Beijing-based man who participated in one such project on GitHub, the software development website, was arrested together with his girlfriend by Beijing police on April 19. The couple were accused of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” a commonly used charge against dissidents in China, according to Chen Kun, the brother of Chen Mei, another volunteer involved with the project. Chen Mei has been missing since that same day. On April 24, the couple’s families received a police notice that informed them of the charge, and said the two have been put under “residential surveillance at a designated place.” There is still no information about Chen Mei, said his brother. . . .

Chinese citizens had been turning to Microsoft-owned GitHub after the outbreak began, as it remains one of the few major foreign websites that can still be accessed in China. Now, volunteers linked to these GitHub pages are facing the growing risk of reprisals from authorities. Another GitHub page, #2020 nCov memory, which was initiated by seven volunteers around the world to chronicle personal accounts and news stories of the outbreak, is no longer publicly available. In an email (link in Chinese), the team behind the page said that its members decided to make the page private to avoid “potential risks,” according to a screenshot of the email shared on social network Weibo.

In addition to the GitHub volunteers, three journalists have also disappeared since February while reporting from Wuhan, the city where the outbreak was first discovered. Among them, only Li Zehua, a former employee of the state broadcaster, recently resurfaced, and said in a video that he had been detained and placed under quarantine by police for “disrupting public order,” but also praised the actions of the police. The whereabouts of citizen journalists Chen Qiushi and Fan Bin remain unknown.

Related: China Is Working Overtime to Suppress Research About Coronavirus Origin.

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