Wuhan civilian journalist sentenced to four years in prison in China’s Christmas acts

Zhang Zhan, a 37-year-old former lawyer and civilian journalist who was arrested in May while reporting from Wuhan, was sentenced to four years in prison.

Zhang was arrested for “picking on quarrels and provoking trouble” – an accusation commonly used against dissidents, activists and journalists – with her video and blog reports of the Wuhan shutdown. Last month, she was charged with spreading false information.

On Monday afternoon, hours after the trial began, Zhang’s lawyer said she had been sentenced to four years in prison.

The prosecution of ten Hong Kongers detained in mainland China after allegedly fleeing to Taiwan also began on Monday, amid a rush of arrests and other repression against dissidents, apparently at Christmas time to avoid Western investigation .

According to the indictment, according to the indictment, Zhang said last week that Zhang “sent false information through text, video and other media via Internet media such as WeChat, Twitter and YouTube.

“She also accepted interviews with the foreign media Free Radio Asia and Epoch Times and maliciously speculated about Wuhan’s Covid-19 epidemic,” he said. A sentence of four to five years is recommended.

Zhang Keke said earlier this month that Zhang was restrained 24 hours a day and fed a tube with a tube after she went on hunger strike. Zhang Keke visited again on Christmas Day and said in a blog post that his client had lost 15 to 20 kg and her hair was cut short.

“She feels psychologically exhausted, like every day is a torment.”

About a dozen supporters and diplomats gathered outside Shanghai Pudong’s new district court on Monday morning, but police pushed journalists and observers away from the entrance when Zhang and her lawyer arrived.

Zhang – one of several civilian journalists detained in Wuhan at the same time – denies the allegations, saying all her reports were from first-hand accounts with local residents. Fellow journalist Fang Bin was arrested in February, but his whereabouts remain secret. Chen Mei and Cai Wei are awaiting trial in Beijing after being arrested in April for filing censored information about the virus.

Chen Qiushi, who was detained in Wuhan in February, was released under supervision to his parents’ home.

Families of the ten Hong Kongers detained after allegedly trying to reach Taiwan said they were only told of the trial on Friday, which gave them no time to travel to Shenzhen and complete the quarantine in time to attend. do not live. The trial is not being streamed live, and it appears the media could not get into the courtroom, turning it into a “de facto secret trial”, the families said.

“By keeping the trial of the 12 secret and preventing the media and the families from attending, the Chinese authorities are violating basic human rights, and they are acting against the ‘sunshine justice’ principle they have promoted, they said in a statement on Monday. .

RTHK reported in Shenzhen that court officials said the trial is open to the public, but all seats have already been reserved.

Prior to the trial, the U.S. State Department called for the group to be released, and an official said their only “so-called crime” was to “flee from tyranny.”

The Yantian District People’s Court in Shenzhen announced last week that 10 of the 12 people allegedly traveled to Taiwan by boat when they were intercepted by Guangdong coastguards in August, charged with organizing or participating in an illegal border crossing. . The remaining two are minors and will be tried later. Since their arrest, the inmates have been virtually banned from having contact with their families and have been barred from seeing their chosen attorneys.

The last-minute trials targeted dissidents, lawyers and journalists amid a spate of activity by authorities. Chinese authorities have a history of using the holiday season, when many Western governments and NGOs are on Christmas break, to conduct and arrest trials.

Additional reporting by agencies.