Four years imprisonment for criticizing crisis management in Wuhan


The case was quickly ticked off. Shortly after the trial started on Monday morning in Shanghai’s Pudong industrial district, the verdict was passed: Journalist Zhang Zhan received four years ‘imprisonment for “disseminating false information” after she had reported critical of the authorities’ surveillance methods to contain the corona virus in the metropolis of Wuhan. The maximum sentence was five years.

Zhang denied the allegation. She has received all the information firsthand from residents of Wuhan.

The live reports that Zhang had distributed via WeChat, Twitter and the YouTube video channel from February 2020 onwards became very popular. The authorities thus targeted the woman. On May 15, the 37-year-old ex-lawyer suddenly disappeared in Wuhan without a trace. It was later revealed that she is in Shanghai Police Custody. The journalist was alleged, according to court documents, of “fueling controversy and unrest” with her reporting – an allegation that dissidents, activists and journalists in China are often confronted when they have fallen out of favor with state organs.

Zhang was charged two weeks ago, and she stood before the People’s Court on Monday. Except for a few close relatives and friends, no spectators were allowed. People who had gathered in front of the building in the morning hours, including some foreign diplomats, were pushed away by security officers, according to The Guardian newspaper, citing eyewitnesses.

In a wheelchair, shaved bald

Zhang himself appeared shaved and in a wheelchair in the courtroom. Her lawyer Zhang Keke said her health was “extremely bad.” The journalist has lost 15 to 20 kilos since her arrest. She feels “psychologically exhausted, as if every day was torture”. The blogger went on a hunger strike in June and was reportedly force-fed. Zhang, who is in solitary confinement, has been forced to wear shackles and her hands have been handcuffed continuously for more than three months. There is great concern for their health and their physical and mental integrity, warn human rights organizations.

In Wuhan, the corona virus was first detected in humans at the end of last year. On January 23, the city and later the entire region were completely cordoned off, the residents were not allowed to leave their apartments and were meticulously monitored by the authorities via the Internet. The virus was largely pushed back in China itself due to the rigorous isolationist and quarantine measures. The country’s leadership has been praising its approach for months as a success story that must not be scratched. After Zhang’s sentencing, half a dozen other journalists are waiting to be tried. They included Fang Bin, whose whereabouts were unknown since he was arrested in February, and Chen Mei and Cai Wei, who are due to be tried in Beijing.

After escaping from court

Ten citizens from Hong Kong who attempted to flee to Taiwan for fear of the new security law also face rigorous prison sentences. Among them is Andy Li, a prominent figure in the democracy movement. The court charged eight of the defendants of illegally crossing the border. Two other defendants were also charged with organizing illegal border crossings. They all stood before the judge for the first time on Monday in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen. You belong to the “Hong Kong 12”, a group of twelve activists who were arrested, arrested and brought to China in August while fleeing on a speedboat. This process also takes place behind closed doors, reporters and Western diplomats were undesirable.

The State Security Act, which came into force in June this year in the Special Administrative Region, is directed against activities that Beijing regards as subversive, separatist or conspiratorial.(what / dpa / red.)

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