Zhang Zhan, 37 was handed a 4 year jail sentence by a Chinese court for reporting from the central city of Wuhan at the peak of last year’s coronavirus outbreak. As a citizen-journalist Zhang Zhan was convicted on grounds of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” her lawyer said.
Zhang Zhan, the first such person known to have been tried, was among a handful of people whose first-hand accounts from crowded hospitals and empty streets painted a more dire picture of the pandemic epicentre than the official narrative.
“I don’t understand. All she did was say a few true words, and for that she got four years,” said Shao Wenxia, Zhang’s mother, who attended the trial with her husband.
Zhang’s lawyer Ren Quanniu told Reuters: “We will probably appeal,” adding that the trial at a court in Pudong, a district of the business hub of Shanghai, ended at 12.30 p.m.
“Ms Zhang believes she is being persecuted for exercising her freedom of speech,” he had said before the trial.
Critics say that China deliberately arranged for Zhang’s trial to take place during the Western holiday season so as to minimize Western attention and scrutiny.
“Beijing’s selection of the sleepy period between Christmas and New Year’s suggests even it is embarrassed to sentence citizen-journalist Zhang Zhan to four years in prison for having chronicled the uncensored version of the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan,” tweeted Kenneth Roth, the Geneva-based executive director of Human Rights Watch.