Zhang Zhang, a citizen journalist, has been sentenced to four years’ imprisonment over her report of the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan, China.
Zhang, 37, who is a former lawyer,r was sentenced at a brief hearing in a Shanghai court for allegedly spreading “false remarks” online, according to Zhang Keke, one of her associates, and “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” in her role for beaming the light into the early stages of the coronavirus outbreak.
Ren Quanniu, one of Zhang’s defence lawyers, told reporters while confirming the four year jail sentence outside Shanghai Pudong New District People’s Court on Monday morning.
AFP quotes Quanniu as saying there have been a lot of concerns over Zhang’s health who began a hunger strike in June and has been force-fed via a nasal tube.
“Zhang Zhan looked devastated when the sentence was announced,” Quanniu said.
“She said when I visited her (last week): ‘If they give me a heavy sentence then I will refuse food until the very end.’… She thinks she will die in prison.
“It’s an extreme method of protesting against this society and this environment.”
Zhang’s live reports and writings were widely circulated on social media platforms in February which commanded unprecedented global attention and also in China, leading to the arrest of eight virus whistleblowers by the Chinese authorities.
Authorities “want to use her case as an example to scare off other dissidents from raising questions about the pandemic situation in Wuhan earlier this year”, said Leo Lan, research and advocacy consultant at the Chinese Human Rights Defenders NGO.