• By The Financial District


A Chinese citizen journalist who sent dispatches about the coronavirus outbreak from Wuhan through social media is reportedly facing up to five years in prison, the MailOnline of the United Kingdom reported.

Zhang Zhan, 37, a former lawyer who criticized the Wuhan government over its handling of the crisis, was detained by police in May on suspicion of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” a broad-brush charge often used against activists.

Press reports indicate that Zhan has been on a hunger strike since May 2020. Hailed by netizens for reporting the truth about the epidemic, she has been formally indicted by public prosecutors of Shanghai for allegedly spreading false information, according to court papers circulating online.

Human Rights Watch, a US-based human rights group, condemned the Chinese authorities' treatment of Ms. Zhang. Wang Yaqiu, a China researcher at the organisation, told MailOnline: “Zhang Zhan is being punished for doing exactly what the world desperately needed: reporting on the coronavirus from Wuhan. The detention of Zhan only reveals how confident Beijing actually is about its ‘success’ in containing COVID-19. It added: “Governments around the world should press Beijing to release Zhang and other wrongfully detained activists and citizen journalists immediately.”

Before Ms. Zhang, three other citizen journalists vanished for publishing reports about Wuhan's epidemic on international social media outlets. Chen Qiushi, 34, was last heard from on February 6 when he was reporting about the virus in Wuhan. Nearly eight months after his disappearance, Mr. Chen's close friend reportedly revealed last month that he was being held under “supervised surveillance at designated residence” in the eastern Chinese city Qingdao. Fang Bin, a businessman, also disappeared in early February and is believed to have been taken into state custody. Li Zehua, a 25-year-old former state TV journalist, disappeared on February 26 and re-appeared in late April. Li was likely targeted by secret police after visiting the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a report said.