China jails citizen journalist for 4 years for coronavirus report from Wuhan

Zhang Zhan, a former lawyer, was given the sentence by the Pudong New Area People’s Court in Shanghai after a brief hearing on charges of 'picking fights and provoking trouble'

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A Chinese woman, who reported on the early outbreak of coronavirus from Wuhan, has been sentenced to four years in prison in “a speedy, rushed hearing”, one of her lawyers said on Monday (December 28).

Zhang Zhan, a former lawyer, was given the sentence by the Pudong New Area People’s Court in Shanghai after a brief hearing on charges of “picking fights and provoking trouble”.

One of her lawyers, Zhang Keke, said the court said she had spread “false remarks” online and also “maliciously manipulated” the outbreak of the virus.

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Also read: Chinese virologist on the run claims Covid virus manufactured in Wuhan lab

“We had no way of understanding what exactly Zhang Zhan was accused of doing,” Keke said. He added it was “a speedy, rushed hearing”.

The 37-year-old Zhan, a citizen journalist, travelled to Wuhan in February, and her live reports were shared on social media. She was arrested in May.

In one of her essays, she had written that the Chinese government “didn’t give people enough information, then simply locked down the city… this is a great violation of human rights”.

Also read: Trump asserts COVID-19 emerged in Wuhan

So far, Chinese authorities have punished eight virus whistleblowers, according to reports.

Zhan’s legal team was quoted as saying that her health is deteriorating and she appeared in court in a wheelchair. She began a hunger strike in June.

“She said when I visited her (last week): ‘If they give me a heavy sentence then I will refuse food until the very end.’… She thinks she will die in prison,” Ren Quanniu, who is part of the defence team, was quoted as saying by news agency AFP.

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