Almost a year after the world first heard of the novel coronavirus which has been the defining event of the year, Chinese authorities have jailed a Chinese citizen-journalist who traveled to Wuhan last February to live stream videos from the city where the pandemic first broke out.
V heavy security presence outside Shanghai Pudong court as Chinese citizen journalist Zhang Zhan #张展 was just sentenced to 4 years in prison for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” her lawyers said. After the verdict was announced, Zhang’s mother sobbed loudly in court. pic.twitter.com/IsldHgh0l8— Laurie Chen (@lauriechenwords) December 28, 2020
Zhang Zhan was arrested last May after her videos and reports from Wuhan attracted millions of viewers who had been looking for authentic reports on what was going on in the city amid very limited information provided by the Chinese government back then.
Accused of "spreading lies", the 37-year-old Zhan was sentenced to four years in jail. However, the court's decision was described as "unjust" and a "continuation of Chinese authorities' ongoing attempts to cover up the truth of how the virus started".
A Chinese citizen journalist who criticized the government's handling of the outbreak in Wuhan has been on a hunger strike for months after her arrest, her lawyers said https://t.co/h5NdXSO9L4— New York Times World (@nytimesworld) December 27, 2020
#NOW Activists of HK Alliance 支聯會 are demonstrating outside Beijing's Liaison Office in Hong Kong urging for release of citizen journalist Zhang Zhan, who was just sentenced to 4yrs in jail for covering #covid19 outbreak in Wuhan, and the 12HKers in Shenzhen. pic.twitter.com/SsYrHye25W— Xinqi Su 蘇昕琪 (@XinqiSu) December 28, 2020
In one of her videos before May, Zhan expressed her concern that her government was determined to keep the truth away from the people, criticizing China's efforts to silence dissident voices, even amongst a pandemic that took many lives. According to her lawyer, Mr. Zhan has been on a hunger strike since her early months in jail, in protest of what she says is "her unjust detention".
This is Zhang Zhan speaking:— 王剑虹 #FreeZhangZhan #无罪释放张展 (@changchengwai) December 27, 2020
"The problem our country faces is that everything is being covered up. All dissenting voices are deemed as rumours.”#freeZhangZhan #freeChina #张展 #ZhangZhanhttps://t.co/7r3ubALzr5
Despite official records pointing at unprecedented success of controlling the pandemic in the country with the world's largest population, many reports have cast doubt on government statements and figures, especially as China still insists only less than 90,000 people tested positive for COVID19, while less than 5000 people lost their lives as a result, making it one of the least infectious countries in the world.
Last March, Newsweek reported local anecdotes from Wuhan, claiming Chinese authorities are deliberately hiding the true number of COVID19 patients and deaths, raising questions over the country's motives of reporting as an alternative truth to the pandemic that has taken more than 1.76 million lives worldwide.
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