Chinese Citizen Journalist Jailed for Reporting on Coronavirus Situation from Wuhan

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Originally published by Click Lancashire on November 20, 2020

Zhang Zhan, a 37-year-old former lawyer, has been held in detention since she was arrested in May.

She was accused of “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble”, an accusation frequently used against critics and activists inside China, after reporting on social media and streaming accounts.

At least three disappeared in February. She said that many small businesses were failing and unemployment appeared to be rising quicker than local governments had let on.

In addition to Zhan, three other citizen journalists – Li Zehua, Chen Qiushi and Fang Bin – have also been detained by the Chinese government on the allegation of generating false information, after they live-streamed the condition of the country during the pandemic, and questioned the government’s motives.

Chinese authorities are known to clamp down on activists who speak out.

Zhang is now being held in a detention facility in Shanghai where authorities reportedly force-fed her in late September in response to a hunger strike, according to RFA.

The Guardian reported that the NGO Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD) had stated that Zhang’s reports included “the detentions of other independent reporters and harassment of families of victims seeking accountability from the epicentre via her WeChat, Twitter and YouTube accounts”. A day later, it was revealed she had been detained by police in Shanghai, more than 400 miles (640km) away.

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. The citizen journalist had earlier gone on a hunger strike in the second month of her arrest, claiming she will break the strike only if she is released unconditionally. On 18 September, her lawyer received a phone call that she had been indicted.

The district prosecutors are now alleging her of fabricating information related to the novel coronavirus which has affected millions of lives all around the world since the end of 2019.

“She also accepted interviews from overseas media Free Radio Asia and maliciously speculated on Wuhan’s COVID-19 epidemic”. Hence a four to five years sentence was recommended.

This is not the first time Ms Zhan has run into trouble with authorities. She had already been arrested in September 2019 in Shanghai: she spent 60 days in jail for demonstrating in favour of pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong.

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