China jails journalist for four years over Corona Virus Reporting

Vastavam web: A Chinese court handed a four-year jail term on Monday (28 December) to a citizen-journalist who reported from the central city of Wuhan at the peak of last year’s coronavirus outbreak, on grounds of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” her lawyer said. Zhang Zhan, 37, the first such person known to have been tried, was among a handful of people whose firsthand accounts from crowded hospitals and empty streets painted a more dire picture of the pandemic epicentre than the official narrative.

“We will probably appeal,” the lawyer, Ren Quanniu told, adding that the trial at a court in Pudong, a district of China’s business hub of Shanghai, ended at 12.30 p.m., with Zhang being sentenced to four years. Criticism of China’s early handling of the crisis has been censored, and whistle-blowers, such as doctors, warned. State media have credited success in reining in the virus to the leadership of President Xi Jinping.

The virus has spread worldwide to infect more than 80 million people and kill over 1.76 million, paralysing air travel as nations threw up barriers against it that have disrupted industries and livelihoods. In Shanghai, police enforced tight security outside the court where the trial opened seven months after Zhang’s detention, although some supporters were undeterred. Foreign journalists were denied entry to the court “due to the epidemic”, court security officials said. A former lawyer, Zhang arrived in Wuhan on 1 February from her home in Shanghai.

Detained in mid-May, she went on a hunger strike in late June, court documents seen by Reuters say. Her lawyers told the court that police strapped her hands and force-fed her with a tube. By December, she was suffering headaches, giddiness, stomach ache, low blood pressure and a throat infection. Requests to the court to release Zhang on bail before the trial and livestream the trial went ignored, her lawyer said.