The tragic story made headlines throughout China: five street children were found suffocated to death after climbing into a dumpster and burning coal to keep warm. Now, the man who first exposed the story has been forced by unknown entities to go “travelling”. His son believes he was taken away so that he will stop giving interviews.
Li Yuanlong, who lives in the city of Bijie in China’s south-western Guizhou province, used to work as a journalist for a local paper. In 2006, he was sentenced to two years in jail for writing “subversive” articles advocating for democracy that he posted on foreign websites under the pseudonym “Night Wolf”. After his release, he laid low, but when he heard that street kids that he knew from his neighbourhood had been found dead in a dumpster last Friday, he took out his camera and went to photograph the scene of the tragedy. He posted these photos on a popular online forum called KDnet, and the story soon caught the attention of the media.
The dumpster in which the five boys died. Photo taken by Li Yuanlong and posted on KDnet.
The scandal that ensued caused many to criticise the local school system, as the children, aged between 9 and 13, had reportedly stopped attending school. Six local officials were sacked, including two school principals and four government officials in charge of education in the district. Two more officials were suspended.
On Wednesday, Li Yuanlong’s friends began to worry when they stopped hearing from him, and suspected he had been taken away by the authorities. His son Li Muzi, who studies in the United States, confirmed on Thursday that his father had been forced to leave town.
An empty lot the children were often seen in. Photo taken by Li Yuanlong and posted on KDnet.
A badmington racket that Li Yuanlong believes the children played with. Photo taken by Li Yuanlong and posted on KDnet.

"A person on the phone told him to leave town"

Before he was taken away, my father and I were video-chatting all the time. Tuesday night – Wednesday morning for him – he told me he got a phone call. The person on the other end of the time ordered him to leave town. He knew they would take him and my mother to the airport, but he didn’t know where they were going. Then he said he had to go, and turned off the computer.
After that, I didn’t hear from him until Wednesday night. On the phone, he told me he and my mother were fine, and that they were in a Chinese city far away from home. He said he should be home in a few days. He didn’t say if he was with anybody, but he was speaking very carefully, so it’s probable the conversation was being listened to. Since then his phone has been turned off.
Today [Thursday], a message was posted under his username on KDnet. [The message, pictured below, reads: “I was not taken away, as some imagine. My family has to deal with an urgent affair, so I have to postpone all communication for a few days. My wife and I are dealing with this problem; I will contact you all after that. Thanks for caring about me.”] What emergency? This doesn’t sound like him. Either he wanted to reassure people for the time being, or someone else wrote this message.
The message in question. 
"They should take away the people that failed those children, not my father"
I’m very worried about him. This is a ridiculous case. Why doesn’t the government try to solve the problem and prevent such atrocities from happening, instead of taking someone away? I’m sure there are more cases of street children dying like this, but this one was only reported because my father was there. They should take away the people that failed those children, not my father. They should encourage people like him.
I think some people must have been worried that if my father kept giving interviews and gave more details about these kids, more people would have to be fired. This is a way of keeping him quiet. It’s not the first time, though. Three years ago, when I moved to the United States, the authorities told my father that if he stopped writing, they would give him a passport to come visit me. He’s applied over and over, and has always been denied. But he’s never given up hope.