Fang Bin, who has posted several hugely popular videos showing what is happening on the ground in Wuhan, was arrested by police officers at 3 p.m. on Monday according to local media outlets and multiple accounts of the incident on social media.
A screenshot posted online suggests Fang was attempting to post another video at the time of his arrest.
Fang refused to respond to police requests to leave his apartment so the authorities surrounded him home, blocking off any possible escape routes. Eventually, firefighters broke down his door.
Just days before he was taken into custody, Fang posted a video saying that the only reason authorities have not broken down his door is the fact that his videos had attracted too much attention.
“If they don’t come to me, they’ll turn to you,” he warned, adding that plainclothes police officers were monitoring his every move.
In a bid to ensure his safety, Fang had told his followers he would post a video every morning so people knew he was safe. No video was posted on Monday.
Fang first came to the authorities’ attention earlier this month, after he posted a video showing eight corpses within five minutes at public hospitals in Wuhan. Fang was subsequently detained by authorities who warned him not to spread rumors before releasing him again.
But Fang continued to post videos online leading to his arrest on Monday. He is one of a growing number of people who have been detained and silenced over their coverage of the situation in Wuhan or their criticism of Beijing’s response to a crisis that has already killed more people than the 2003 SARS epidemic and infected over 40,000 people.
Last week there was an unprecedented outpouring of grief and anger at the death of Li Wenliang, the doctor who had tried to warn the world about the coronavirus in late December, but who was silenced by police in Wuhan and warned about talking up again.
As the coronavirus spread in Hubei province, citizens who typically don’t criticize the government spoke up, and a band of citizen journalists began posting content on platforms like YouTube and Twitter where Chinese censors could not reach it.