A Chinese journalist Zhang Zang who reported the height of the initial coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan has been jailed for 4 years by a court in Shanghai, a lawyer for the journalist has just confirmed.
Chinese Journalist Zhang Zhan Jailed
An independent journalist named Zhang Zhan, 37 was found guilty on Monday by a Shanghai court on December 28, 2020, of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” according to her defense lawyers Zhang Keke, who attended her hearing, saying the offense is commonly used by the Chinese government to target dissidents and human rights, activists.
The former lawyer traveled some 400 miles from Shanghai to Wuhan in early February to report on the pandemic and subsequent attempts to contain it, just as authorities began reining in state-run and private Chinese media.
For more than three months, she documented snippets of life under lockdown in Wuhan and the harsh reality faced by its residents, from overflowing hospitals to empty shops. She posted her observations, photos, and videos on Wechat, Twitter, and YouTube — the latter two of which are blocked in China.
Her postings came to an abrupt stop in mid-May, and she was later revealed to have been detained by police and brought back to Shanghai. According to Amnesty International, at one point during 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 reported that her hands were tied to prevent her from removing the device and that she suffered from constant headaches and pains 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 Zang is the first citizen journalist known to have been sentenced for her role in reporting on the coronavirus pandemic. But this 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 in her detention.