World The "citizen journalist" who covered the epidemic sentenced to...

The “citizen journalist” who covered the epidemic sentenced to four years in prison

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Illustrative image of a police car in China. – GREG BAKER / POOL / AFP

A “citizen journalist” who had covered the Covid-19 epidemic in Wuhan was sentenced to four years in prison on Monday in China, as the country praises its success in the fight against the disease spread since to the surface of the globe.

Zhang Zhan, tried within hours, “looked very dejected when the judgment was announced,” said one of her lawyers, Ren Quanniu, saying he was “very worried” about her psychological state. Foreign journalists and diplomats were not allowed to enter the Shanghai court.

China’s response criticized

Some of his supporters were repulsed by the police when the trial opened, journalists noted. Zhang Zhan, a former lawyer, faced a five-year prison sentence. Originally from Shanghai, she went to Wuhan in February, then plagued by the epidemic, posting reports on social networks, in particular on the chaotic situation in hospitals. According to the official report, the metropolis of 11 million inhabitants alone counted nearly 4,000 deaths from the Covid, almost all of the 4,634 deaths counted throughout China between January and May.

China’s initial response at the start of the epidemic has been criticized, Beijing having waited until January 23 to quarantine Wuhan and its region, when cases had been reported as early as December 2019. The first case transmitted to the Organization World Health Organization (WHO) was almost a year ago, on December 31, 2019. But simultaneously, doctors who had mentioned the appearance of a mysterious virus were questioned by the police who accused them of ” spread rumors ”. One of them, Doctor Li Wenliang, died of Covid in early February, releasing torrents of anger on social networks, before being promptly channeled by power.

A hunger strike

Zhang Zhan was arrested in May on charges of “provoking unrest”, terminology frequently used against opponents of President Xi Jinping’s regime. Concretely, the court accused him of having disseminated false information on the Internet, indicated his other lawyer Zhang Keke. Zhang Zhan went on a hunger strike in June to protest her detention and has since been force-fed using a nasal tube, according to her lawyers.

“When I saw her last week, she said: if I am severely condemned, I will refuse all food until the end. She thinks she will die in prison, ”Zhang Keke reported. In articles that she disseminated online earlier this year, Zhang Zhan denounced the confinement imposed on Wuhan, citing “a serious violation of human rights”. Three other citizen journalists, Chen Qiushi, Fang Bin and Li Zehua, were also detained after covering the events.

“Extremely extraordinary”

The communist regime, strong in its fight against the epidemic, seeks to forget the appearance of the new coronavirus on its soil at the end of 2019. Zhang Zhan’s trial took place while a WHO team is expected in early January to take stock of the origins of the epidemic. The ruling party leaders congratulated themselves on their “extremely extraordinary” achievement this year, the New China Agency reported on Friday after a meeting of the CCP’s political bureau.

The Chinese government has a habit of condemning opponents at the time of the holiday season, when the attention of the rest of the world is reduced. Also scheduled for Monday in Shenzhen (south) is the trial of a group of Hong Kong activists arrested last August while trying to flee the former British colony by boat to Taiwan.

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