A Chinese citizen journalist was sentenced to four years in jail on Monday over her critical reporting on the government’s handling of the COVID-19 outbreak.
Zhang Zhan, 37, was convicted by a Shanghai court of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” for her video and blog reports from Wuhan during the early days of the pandemic, Agence France-Presse reported.
Her reports were widely shared on social media in February, grabbing the attention of authorities, who have punished eight whistleblowers for documenting the outbreak or questioning the Chinese Communist Party’s response to it.
The court deemed that Zhang, a former lawyer, spread “false remarks” online, said Zhang Keke, one of her defense attorneys.
She has been held in custody since May, and her health condition has been worsening, her attorneys said.
Zhan went on a hunger-strike in June and has been force-fed via a nasal tube, with her arms restrained to prevent her from pulling it out, according to her lawyers.
“She feels psychologically exhausted, like every day is a torment,” said Zhang Keke.
The reporter, who had faced up to five years in prison, attended Monday’s hearing in a wheelchair and was “devastated” by the sentence, announced just a couple of hours into her trial.
Another of her attorneys, Ren Quanniu, said that, during a prison visit last week, Zhang said that she would continue her hunger strike “until the very end,” if given a heavy sentence.
“She thinks she will die in prison.”
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