Miao Yu, Shih-Wei Chou, Bo Xu, Sharon Wu, Mandarin Service, 2021 winner
In January 2020, following the outbreak of COVID-19 in Wuhan, Chinese authorities tightened their grip on information flow, both online and offline. They heavily censored basic facts about the pandemic and filled airwaves with select and positive stories.
Images of empty streets during Wuhan’s lockdown provided a window into the grief and loss of its citizens, crying for help. Netizens expressed their anger and sorrow after the death of the “whistleblower doctor”, Li Wenliang.
Reporters Miao Yu, Shi-Wei Chou and TV host Bo Xu at Voice of America’s Mandarin Service reached out to ordinary people and connected with citizen journalists from inside Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak of the global coronavirus pandemic. Risking retaliation for talking to or working with foreign press, these people told us stories that were very different from the official narrative. VOA brought their stories to light.
A daughter’s search for her father, who went missing so that he would not infect his family and was later found dead, brought to light the anguish of losing a loved one in mere days.
A son’s cry for the outside world to help, after his father was rejected by several hospitals, foreshadowed the desperation of a city under lockdown and the death toll to come from the coronavirus.
These individuals bravely shared their stories with the world through VOA, risking their own safety. Even today, one of the citizen journalists, Bin Fang, is still missing. Another citizen journalist, Qiushi Chen, was put under the government’s surveillance and only recently resurfaced after 600 days.
The Wuhan Lockdown coverage represents an unprecedented approach to our reporting, bringing a deeply personal angle to the pandemic.
(Not pictured above, Sharon Wu)