A court in Shanghai on Monday sentenced Chinese citizen journalist Zhang Zhan to four years in prison for describing the situation in Wuhan at the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, the South China Morning Post reported, citing one of the convict's lawyers.
Zhang, 37, has been found guilty of "starting an argument and causing trouble," for which she faces up to five years in prison, the Hong Kong daily reported. The communist authorities of the PRC often make this accusation against dissidents and civil activists to silence criticism.
"Zhang Zhan attended the trial in a wheelchair and was in poor health ... She has not yet said whether she will appeal (against the sentence)," said lawyer Zhang Keke.
The Shanghai police detained Zhang in mid-May.
Zhang, a former lawyer from Shanghai, travelled to Wuhan in February and reported live there on social media, including Twitter and YouTube, which are blocked in China. She also wrote an article critical of the authorities in which she questioned the accuracy of official information about the scale of the epidemic.
The first cases of Covid-19 were confirmed in Wuhan at the end of 2019. In January 2020, an avalanche in the number of infections overloaded the health service there, and hospitals lacked beds, equipment and staff. In late January, the PRC government quarantined Wuhan, practically cutting the city off from the world for more than two months.
Wuhan authorities have been criticized for the delayed response to the outbreak of the epidemic and attempts to cover it up, which may have contributed to the scale of the crisis. In addition to Zhang, the police also detained several other bloggers describing the fight against the Wuhan outbreak, and others were ordered to halt their activities.
From Canton Andrzej Borowiak (PAP)