Li Yuanlong, a former reporter who lives in Guizhou, China, has mysteriously been placed on a state-sponsored “vacation” according to his son, a student currently based in the US.”My father told me he received several phone calls before he was taken away from home,” Li Muzi told the South China Morning Post.
To understand why Li disappeared, you have to understand his role in uncovering and promoting a story that has gripped China for the last few days.
The former journalist was behind a number of postings on the website kdnet.net, going into detail about the deaths of five young runaways who died inside a dumpster after suffocating on fumes from charcoal they burned to stay warm.
The story was soon picked up by China’s mainstream press, appearing on state-run news agency Xinhua before being picked up internationally by outlets such as CNN. It became a Weibo trending topic and led Baidu’s most searched items, becoming something of a phenomenon “Stories of suffering children are always hard to stomach”, Josh Chin of China Real Time notes, “but they tend to hit with particular impact in China, where the one-child policy and a strong belief in the family as the most basic unit of society have combined to imbue the young with an aura of unsurpassed importance.”
A number of local officials have been penalised for the deaths of the boys, all members of one family who were aged between 9 and 13. Li Yuanlong’s “holiday” appears to be an attempt by local authorities to maintain the fallout from the terrible incident.
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