A citizen journalist who covered the COVID-19 epidemic in Wuhan was sentenced this Monday (12.28.2020) to four years in prison, while the Chinese government boasts of its successes in the fight against the disease that in a year has been spread all over the planet.
Zhang Zhan “seemed very dejected when the ruling was announced,” one of his lawyers, Ren Quanniu, told AFP, declaring himself “very concerned” about her psychological state.
Foreign journalists and diplomats who traveled to the Shanghai court where the 37-year-old ex-lawyer was tried were unable to enter the courtroom.
Some of his sympathizers were repelled by the security forces during the opening of the process, AFP journalists confirmed. Zhang Zhan could be sentenced to up to five years in prison.
Zhang, a native of Shanghai, traveled to Wuhan in February, at that time prey to the epidemic, and published reports on social networks, mostly about the chaotic situation that hospitals were going through.
According to the official balance, in the metropolis of 11 million inhabitants there were about 4,000 deaths from COVID-19, that is, almost all of the 4,634 deaths recorded throughout China between January and May.
“Provocation of riots”,
China’s initial response to the epidemic has come under fire, as Beijing did not quarantine Wuhan and its region until January 23, despite cases since early December 2019.
At the same time, the doctors who mentioned the appearance of a mysterious virus were questioned by the police, who accused them of “spreading rumors”.
Zhang was arrested in May on charges of “provoking riots,” a terminology often used against opponents of President Xi Jinping’s regime, according to a court note that AFP had access to.
In articles posted online, Zhang denounced the lockdown imposed in Wuhan and referred to a “grave violation of human rights.”
Three other citizen journalists, Chen Qiushi, Fang Bin and Li Zehua, were also arrested after covering these events. The AFP was unable to contact his lawyers.
mg (afp, China Change)