Chinese journalist who documented urban center coronavirus eruption imprisoned for four years
An independent Chinese journalist who reported from Wuhan at the height of the initial coronavirus outbreak has been jailed for four years by a Shanghai court, her lawyer said Monday. Zhang Zhan, 37, was found guilty of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” according to one of her defense lawyers Zhang Keke, who attended her hearing. The offense is commonly used by the Chinese government to target dissidents and human rights activists. A former lawyer, Zhang traveled some 400 miles from Shanghai to Wuhan in early February to report on the pandemic and subsequent attempts to contain it, just as the authorities began reining in state-run and personal Chinese media. For quite 3 months, she documented snippets of life beneath imprisonment in Wuhan and also the harsh reality moon-faced by its residents, from overflowing hospitals to empty shops. She announce her observations, photos and videos on Wechat, Twitter and YouTube — the latter 2 of that are blocked in China. Her postings came to an abrupt stop in mid-May, and he or she was later discovered to possess been detained by police and brought back to Shanghai. consistent with Amnesty International, at one purpose throughout her detention Zhang went on hunger strike, during which time she was shackled and force fed, treatment the group said amounted to torture. Her lawyer Zhang Keke, who visited Zhang earlier this month while she was in detention, described on social media that Zhang had a feeding tube attached to her nose and mouth. He said her hands were tied to prevent her from removing the device, and that she suffered from constant headache and pain in her stomach and throat. CNN did not immediately receive a response from China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs on allegations of Zhang’s mistreatment in detention. Zhang’s lawyer said she attended Monday’s hearing in a wheelchair, as she had become frail during her time in detention. In her indictment, prosecutors accused her of “publishing large amounts of fake information” and receiving interviews from overseas media outlets, including Radio Free Asia and the Epoch Times, to “maliciously stir up the Wuhan Covid-19 epidemic situation.” But Zhang’s lawyer said the prosecutors did not display any concrete evidence of the “fake information” Zhang was accused of fabricating during the court proceedings. He added that his client, in a gesture of protest, barely spoke during the trial and refused to plead guilty. Zhang is the first citizen journalist known to have been sentenced for her role in reporting on the coronavirus pandemic. But it is not her first run in with the authorities. According to her indictment, she was twice detained for 10 days in 2019 for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” but the document did not specify what had resulted her detention.