A court in China sentenced a 37-year-old citizen-journalist who reported from Wuhan in the COVID-19 outbreak’s early days to a four-year prison term Monday for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” according to multiple reports.
Zhang Zhan, a former lawyer, is the first known individual tried for documenting the outbreak, Reuters reported. (RELATED: White House, Senators Pan WHO Investigation Into Chinese Origins Of COVID-19)
China just gave citizen-journalist Zhang Zhan 4 years in prison for piercing Beijing’s coronavirus cover-up. To protest, spread the word: Beijing hid human-to-human transmission for 3 weeks in January while millions fled Wuhan and the virus went global. https://t.co/L5lnRrvkMs pic.twitter.com/Y2XoL5ldFu— Kenneth Roth (@KenRoth) December 28, 2020
“I don’t understand. All she did was say a few true words, and for that she got four years,” Shao Wenxia, Zhang’s mother, said, according to Reuters.
“Picking quarrels and provoking trouble” is a vaguely-defined offense in China and is often weaponized to curb dissent, according to the South China Morning Post (SCMP).
In February, Zhang left her Shanghai home for Wuhan to gain a first-hand perspective of the pandemic, Reuters reported.
She had shared videos documenting Wuhan’s congested hospitals, empty streets and the financial worries of the city’s residents, presenting a dire first-hand account of the pandemic that repudiated the Chinese Communist government’s official COVID-19 narrative, Reuters reported.
Zhang also wrote an article critical of the authorities’ response to the Wuhan outbreak and questioned whether the Communist government had hidden the outbreak’s severity, the SCMP reported.
Zhang was arrested in mid-May, after which she went on a hunger strike in late June, Reuters reported. Police reportedly strapped her hands and fed her with a tube. By December, she suffered headaches, giddiness, stomach ache, low blood pressure and a throat infection, according to Reuters.
Foreign journalists were denied entry into the court “due to the epidemic,” according to court officials, Reuters reported.