In an interview with Axios reporter Jonathan Swan, the Chinese ambassador to the United States, Cui Tiankai, denied knowing the whereabouts or even of the existence of a missing Chinese journalist who reported on China’s initial response to the Wuhan virus.
Chen Qiushi, a citizen journalist who published critical reporting from Wuhan, where the outbreak began, went missing in early February after uploading videos online of what he saw in overflowing hospitals, funeral homes, and quarantine areas.
In a discussion on providing information to the public, Swan asked the ambassador, “Where is the citizen journalist Chen Qiushi? He was doing some of the early videos from inside Wuhan that were showing the response to the virus and the chaos that was happening inside Wuhan.”
“I have not heard of this person,” Tiankai said.
“Really? Chen Qiushi?” Swan asked. “Well, you were asked about him on ‘Face the Nation’ on February the 9th.”
Tiankai denied Swan’s statement saying, “No, I was not asked about any particular journalist.”
“You were. I watched the clip,” Swan said. “Margaret Brennan named Chen Qiushi. You were asked about him.”
“I did not know him then, I do not know him now,” Tiankai said.
Swan pressed the ambassador, asking if he was curious about figuring out who he was after Brennan named him. Tiankai blamed his lack of knowledge on the subject being a domestic issue and out of purview for someone in charge of U.S. relations.
“Why not let people do their own job?” Tiankai replied.
.@JonathanVSwan questions China’s Ambassador to the United States @AmbCuiTiankai about the missing citizen journalist Chen Quishi, who covered the early response to coronavirus in Wuhan. All episodes of #AxiosOnHBO now streaming. pic.twitter.com/h54otPWTda
— HBO Documentaries (@HBODocs) March 22, 2020
MARGARET BRENNAN: Have Chinese authorities detained the citizen journalist, Chen Qiushi? He has disappeared and his videos revealed a lot of what was happening with this virus.
AMBASSADOR CUI: I’m sorry, I have not- never heard of this guy, so I don’t have any information to share with you.
After traveling to Wuhan in late January to document the worsening of the outbreak, Chen posted his first YouTube video. In it, he said, “I will use my camera to document what is really happening. I promise I won’t… cover up the truth.”
Chen spent two weeks in the city reporting on the poor conditions of treatment areas and the lack of masks and test kits. He has more than 200,000 followers on Twitter, more than 400,000 subscribers to his YouTube channel, and his videos have been viewed millions of times.
Chen told the BCC he knew his reporting put him at risk and that he was unsure how long he would be able to continue. Since Feburary 9, friends and family have not been able to contact him. According to a video posted by Chen’s mother, he was forcibly quarantined by police.