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Chinese citizen journalist jailed over COVID-19 reporting

Zhang Zhan, a former lawyer, was sentenced at a brief hearing in a Shanghai court for allegedly picking quarrels and provoking trouble for her reporting in the chaotic initial stages of the outbreak.
|| Rhythima Agrawal

Citizen journalist Zhang Zhan, detained in May for her live stream reporting on COVID-19 from Wuhan has been imprisoned for 4 years, reported the Hong Kong Free Press.

According to the Hong Kong Free Press, dozens of her supporters gathered outside the Shanghai Pudong New District People’s Court on Monday morning before the trial began. The police pushed away journalists and observers from the entrance of the court. The citizen journalist was convicted of provoking trouble, a common charge used against government critics in China.

However, the New York Times reported that the former lawyer-cum-journalist is on a hunger strike since June. According to her lawyers, Zhang has been forced fed via a nasal tube. “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,” Ren Quanniu, one of Zhang’s defense lawyers said before the trial.

China’s communist authorities have a history of putting dissidents on trial in opaque courts between Christmas and New Year to minimize Western scrutiny. The trial comes just weeks before an international team of World Health Organization experts is expected to arrive in China to investigate the origins of Covid-19.

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