Dr. Ai Fen, director of emergency management at Wuhan Central Hospital and one of the first doctors to blow the whistle on the coronavirus epidemic at a time when the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) was desperate to conceal it, has reportedly vanished.
She began speaking out against the CCP two weeks ago, beginning with an interview that Chinese censors relentlessly suppressed.
Ai’s interview in early March was a courageous indictment of Communist Party leadership for concealing the epidemic, and especially for denying that the Wuhan virus could be transmitted between humans. She said doctors in Wuhan knew the virus could pass between humans weeks before the CCP admitted it to the world, and blamed herself for failing to speak out despite orders to keep quiet.
As with famous and now-deceased whistleblower Dr. Li Wenliang, she was reprimanded for “spreading rumors” when she tried to warn other members of the Wuhan medical community about the emerging epidemic. Ai said Li’s death from the coronavirus was one reason she decided to speak out.
“If I could have known, I would have told everyone, even though I was warned. I have thought many times — if only time could be turned back,” she said. (The U.K. Guardian posted an even more aggressive translation of her remarks: “If I had known what was to happen, I would not have cared about the reprimand. I would have f**king talked about it to whoever, where ever I could”).
Of her early role in attempting to spread the word about the coronavirus, Ai said: “I am not a whistleblower. I am the one who provided the whistle.”
The CCP’s censorship machine went into overdrive stamping out Ai’s interview, hunting it down and deleting it as it spread through social media and forcing the paper that interviewed Ai to effectively pretend the interview never happened.
Australian media noted over the weekend that Ai has “disappeared,” as 60 Minutes Australia put it.
“As China now tries to rewrite history and claim it was transparent all along, a final nail in the coffin of their lie. Just two weeks ago, the head of emergency at Wuhan Central Hospital, Dr. Ai Fen, also went public saying authorities had stopped her and her colleagues from warning the world. She has now disappeared, whereabouts unknown,” the report said.
60 Minutes Australia did not detail when Ai was last heard from in public or what efforts have been made to contact her.
The Straits Times mentioned that she “didn’t respond to request for comment” in an article published on Monday that referenced her “whistleblower” interview two weeks ago.
The New York Times mentioned Ai and her interview in a piece on the “failure” of China’s “fail-safe system to track contagions” published on Sunday, but did not indicate whether it attempted to contact her before publication. Ai does not appear to have given many interviews after the one that became famous on March 11. The outside world definitely noticed the CCP’s frantic efforts to delete every copy of that interview, but until now, no one checked to make sure the CCP did not delete the doctor herself.