The truthtellers: How China's pandemic lies were exposed

It’s not always immediately clear where the red line is for censorship, and because the rules aren’t static, some people venture into gray areas in the belief that what they are doing will be tolerated by the government. They hope that they will be lucky enough to avoid censorship and potential punishment.

“It’s really unclear what is legal and what is illegal,” a friend of Chen Mei noted. “Why would archiving those articles be illegal?”

When Chen Kun got that fateful call on April 20 from his brother’s boss, he was in Indonesia, trying to avoid the pandemic. His brother Chen Mei had disappeared alongside Terminus 2049 co-founder, Cai Wei, and Cai Wei’s girlfriend, he soon learned.

A few days later, Cai Wei’s family received a phone call from the police, telling them Cai Wei had been arrested and was under residential surveillance at an undisclosed location. He was suspected of picking quarrels and provoking trouble — a charge commonly used to arrest activists in China. Those charges related to two things: building a website on a foreign server, and publishing inappropriate remarks online, Cai Wei’s father Cai Jianli said. That same day, Chen Mei called his boss and told him he would be out sick for a month.