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16th December 2020, 13:01:46 UTC

Covid-19 journalist tortured and imprisoned for exposing truth.

Citizen journalist Zhang Zhan was sentenced to four years in prison on 28 December 2020.

The charge against her of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” stemmed from her COVID-19 reports from Wuhan that began in February 2020.

In February 2020, Zhang Zhan travelled to Wuhan, which was then the centre of the COVID-19 outbreak in China. She used online platforms (including WeChat, Twitter and YouTube) to report on the detention of other independent reporters as well as the harassment of victims’ families.

Zhang Zhan went missing on 15 May in Wuhan and was subsequently revealed to have been detained by police in Shanghai, more than 640km away.

Zhang started a hunger strike in June 2020 to protest and assert her innocence. However, her lawyer reported that Zhang was force-fed by the authorities, forced to wear shackles and had her hands restrained 24 hours a day from June to December 2020. These punishments aimed at stopping Zhang’s hunger strike amount to torture and ill-treatment. Zhang resumed eating on 28 December 2020 to avoid being force-fed and subjected to other ill-treatment.

On 28 December, the day of her trial, Zhang Zhan was brought to the courtroom in a wheelchair. During the trial, prosecutors accused Zhang of using social media platforms to disseminate large volumes of false information. According to Zhang’s defence lawyer, the prosecutor failed to present specific examples of false information in any of her social media posts.

Pudong New District People’s Court sentenced Zhang Zhan to four years in prison on the charge of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” on 28 December 2020. According to her lawyer, she decided not to appeal.

Zhang Zhan is a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned solely for peacefully exercising her right to freedom of expression.

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