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A Chinese Journalist Who Went Missing While Reporting On The Coronavirus Has Reappeared In An Online Video

Li Zehua, who livestreamed his detention, had traveled to Wuhan after another citizen journalist disappeared.

Posted on April 23, 2020, at 8:41 a.m. ET

Li Zehua / YouTube

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A Chinese journalist who went missing two months ago after being pursued and detained while reporting on the coronavirus in Wuhan has reappeared in a video posted online.

Li Zehua was last seen on Feb. 26 when he posted a video where he was being chased by a white SUV. He livestreamed his detention later that day when security officials entered the apartment he was staying in.

Li traveled to Wuhan, the city where the coronavirus was first detected in December 2019, after contact was lost with another citizen journalist, Chen Qiushi.

On Wednesday a new video was posted on Li’s Twitter, Weibo, and YouTube profiles, where the 25-year-old explained that he had spent much of the last two months in quarantine.

In the video, Li, standing in front of a white background and speaking in a calm tone, says that when men entered his apartment on Feb. 26 he was told he was being investigated on charges of disrupting public order.

Hector Retamal / Getty Images

A delivery worker waits to deliver items over a barrier limiting access to a neighborhood in Wuhan, April 20. Wuhan came out of a strict lockdown earlier this month.

Although he was not charged, he was quarantined — first in Wuhan but then later in his hometown — because he had visited “sensitive areas.” Li said his devices were taken from him while in quarantine, but that he was given plenty of food and allowed to watch Chinese news programs in the evenings.

"During this stretch of time, the police made sure I had rest and food, civilly and in accordance with the law. They really cared for me," he says in the video.

"Thank you to all the people who looked after me and cared about me. I hope all the people who are suffering in this epidemic can recover their health soon. God bless China. I hope the world can come together.”

The words are quite different from how Li, who briefly worked for state broadcaster CCTV in the past, spoke in the videos he posted while reporting from Wuhan, including reports on efforts to cover up new infections and interviews with overworked crematorium employees.

China has a track record of airing forced confessions on state TV, although this video differs because it was posted directly on to Li's own social media profiles.

View this video on YouTube

“There are too many things we don’t understand. We want to know more. We have to understand what’s going on. But they don’t want us to know what we want to know; they want us to know what they want us to know,” he said in his first video from Wuhan in February. “This is why I’m here.”

Li’s videos have been watched millions of times online, on Weibo but also YouTube and Twitter.

Chen, the journalist who disappeared before Li’s arrival in Wuhan, is still missing, according to a Twitter account run by friends. The whereabouts of another journalist from Wuhan, Fang Bin, are also still unknown.

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.