Authorities charged her with “picking quarrels and provoking trouble.”
A Chinese court sentenced Zhang Zhan, a former lawyer turned citizen journalist, to four years for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” due to her reports on COVID-19 in Wuhan.
From The Wall Street Journal:
The charge against Ms. Zhang, “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” is vaguely defined and has often been used to prosecute activists and dissidents. “Authorities are sending a warning to anyone who dares to cast the government in a bad light,” said Gwen Lee, a China campaigner at Amnesty International, a human-rights watchdog.
During Monday’s trial, Ms. Zhang said she regarded the proceedings against her as illegitimate and refused to answer the prosecution’s questions, according to one of her lawyers, Zhang Keke. She was brought to the courtroom on a wheelchair, likely due to her weakened state stemming from a hunger strike, said Mr. Zhang, who was present at the courtroom on Monday.
The lawyer, who isn’t related to the defendant, said the severity of Ms. Zhang’s punishment may be due in part to her past brushes with the law. Shanghai police issued her a warning in 2018 for allegedly seditious online activity, before detaining her on two occasions the following year for offenses related to picking quarrels and causing public disorder, according to a charge sheet reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.
Ren Quanniu, Zhang’s lawyer, said they “will probably appeal.”
Zhan went to Wuhan from Shanghai in February to document how the virus impacted the city.
This is Zhan’s first tweet in Wuhan:
Zhang posted over “120 YouTube videos chronicling conditions in the city and detailed what she saw as missteps in the government’s initial pandemic response.”
The videos included “crowded hospitals and residents worrying about their incomes.”
On May 7th, Zhang wrote, “The party flags and red signs at the gates of many communities indicate that epidemic prevention is not important, and that maintaining the stability of the regime affected by the epidemic is the goal.”
Zhang published her last YouTube video on May 13. She wrote, “The consequences of authoritarian epidemic prevention continue to appear.”
Chinese authorities arrested Zhang seven months ago in Wuhan. They formally indicted her in November.
The Guardian reported two weeks ago that Zhan went on a hunger strike. She had to receive food via a tube:
In a blog post on Wednesday, Zhang’s lawyer, Zhang Keke, said he visited his client on Tuesday afternoon, and found her unwell and exhausted.
“She was wearing thick pyjamas with a girdle around the waist, her left hand pinned in front and right hand pinned behind,” he wrote. “She said she had a stomach tube inserted recently and because she wanted to pull it out, she was restrained.”
Zhang Keke said she was in “constant torment” from 24 hours a day of restraints, and needed assistance to go to the bathroom.
“In addition to headache, dizziness and stomach pain, there was also pain in her mouth and throat. She said this may be inflammation due to the insertion of a gastric tube.”
China has punished whistleblowers over COVID-19 as the regime attempted to shield itself from responsibility for the outbreak.
Zhang is the first citizen journalist to face arrest and prosecution. Three other citizen journalists disappeared in February while in Wuhan. One made an appearance in April, but has not been seen since.DONATE
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