CHINA IMPRISONS CITIZEN-JOURNALIST FOR REPORTING ON WUHAN OUTBREAK
A Chinese court on Monday handed down a four-year jail term to a citizen-journalist who reported from the central city of Wuhan at the peak of last year’s coronavirus outbreak on the grounds of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” her lawyer said, Reuters reported.
Zhang Zhan, 37, the first such person known to have been tried, was among a handful of people whose firsthand accounts from crowded hospitals and empty streets painted a more dire picture of the pandemic epicenter than the official narrative.
Immediately, United Nations human rights office voiced concern on Monday at the four-year prison term imposed by a Chinese court on citizen journalist Zhang who reported from Wuhan early in the pandemic and reiterated its call for her release.
“We raised her case with the authorities throughout 2020 as an example of the excessive clampdown on freedom of expression linked to #COVID19 & continue to call for her release,” it said in a tweet.
“I don’t understand. All she did was say a few true words, and for that she got four years,” said Shao Wenxia, Zhang’s mother, who attended the trial with her husband.
Zhang’s lawyer Ren Quanniu told Reuters: “We will probably appeal.”
The trial was held at a court in Pudong, a district of the business hub of Shanghai. “Ms Zhang believes she is being persecuted for exercising her freedom of speech,” Ren had said before the trial.
Critics say that China deliberately arranged for Zhang’s trial to take place during the Western holiday season to minimize Western attention and scrutiny.
U.S. President Donald Trump has regularly criticized Beijing for covering up the emergence of what he calls the “China virus.”