An independent Chinese journalist, Zhang Zhan, has been found guilty by the Shanghai court of law for ‘picking quarrels and provoking trouble’. She is the first citizen journalist known to have been sentenced to prison due to her reporting on the coronavirus pandemic. According to her indictment, she was also twice detained for 10 days in 2019 but the document did not specify what had caused her detention.
Reason for Zhang Zhan arrest by chinese authorities
The 37-year-old former lawyer reported from Wuhan at the height of the initial coronavirus outbreak. She travelled over 400miles from Shanghai to Wuhan in early February, reporting on the pandemic and the efforts by the Chinese government to contain the news about the virus in state run and private media.
She also documented the effects of the virus on Wuhan residents during the lockdown—overflowing hospitals, empty shops, etc.—posting her observations, photos and videos on Twitter, YouTube and WeChat.
Mid-may, her postings stopped, and it was later revealed that she was detained by state police and brought back to Shanghai. During her trial, prosecutors accused her of ‘publishing large amounts of fake information to maliciously stir up the Wuhan Covid-19 epidemic situation.’
Zhang Zhan detention and treatment
The charges brought against her are commonly used by the Chinese government to control its citizens, target human rights activists, and prevent uprisings among the state’s citizens.
According to Amnesty International, Zhang went on a hunger strike during her detention, which led to her being shackled, force fed and tortured by the state police.
Her defense lawyer, Zhang Keke, described her inhumane treatment after visiting her in detention. He said a feeding tube was attached to her nose and mouth, and her hands were tied to prevent her from removing the tubes. He added that she suffered from constant headaches and pain in her stomachs and throat.