Chinese citizen journalist Zhang Zhan, who was detained by the Chinese government in May this year for reporting on the Wuhan virus, was sentenced to four years imprisonment on December 28. 37-year old Zhan was accused of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”, a charge that is very commonly invoked against critics and activists in China. She has been observing hunger strike since September. She was force-fed through feeding tubes with her hands tied so that she could not tamper with the feeding tubes.
Zhang Zhan, a former lawyer, had gone to Wuhan in February this year where she reported on a number of stories including the detention of other independent journalists and the harassment of families of victims who sought accountability. She had questioned the lockdown imposed by the Chinese authorities on January 23 following the Wuhan virus outbreak. She had critically reported about the Chinese government’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak. Zhang Zhan was also accused of accepting interviews from overseas media Free Radio Asia and Epoch Times maliciously spreading information on Wuhan virus.
The European Union demands Zhan’s release
The European Union yesterday demanded the release of Zhan and several other jailed journalists, lawyers and human rights activists. This was said by the EU in a statement that was issued before it signed a major investment deal with China despite concerns about China’s labour and civil rights accord.
Zhan was detained on previous occasions
In 2018, Zhan was detained on similar charges. Later in 2019, she was summoned by Shanghai police and was later arrested on suspicion of “picking quarrels” for supporting Hong Kong. Several other journalists like Chen Quishi and Li Zehua have also been detained by the Chinese authorities for reporting on the Covid-19 outbreak and the detention of activists.