A Chinese court handed down a four-year jail term to a journalist and Chinese citizen who reported from Wuhan at the peak of this year’s coronavirus outbreak.
“Zhang Zhan, a 37-year-old citizen journalist who reported on crowded hospitals and the conditions in Wuhan earlier this year, was sentenced Monday to four years over the offense of ‘picking quarrels and provoking trouble.”
“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.
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.
She was originally detained in mid may, she decided to go on a hunger strike in late June. Her lawyers told the court that police strapped her hands and force-fed her with a tube. In December she was suffering from stomach aches, low blood pressure and a throat infection.
The United Nations human rights office called in a tweet for Zhang’s 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.
Criticism of China’s early handling of the crisis has been censored, and whistle-blowers such as doctors warned.
President Trump and others have often blamed China not just for the coronavirus, but for hiding the pandemic from the global health community until after it had escaped China.
The virus has spread worldwide to infect more than 80 million people and kill more than 1.76 million, paralysing air travel as nations threw up barriers that have disrupted industries and livelihoods.