China jails citizen journalist Zhang Zhan for Wuhan virus reports

A pro-democracy activist holds the picture of Zhang Zhan outside the Chinese government’s liaison office in Hong Kong on Monday. Photo: AP

A Chinese court has handed a four-year jail term to a citizen journalist who reported from the city of Wuhan at the peak of last year’s coronavirus outbreak, on grounds of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” her lawyer says.

Zhang Zhan, 37, the first such person known to have been tried, was among a handful of people whose first-hand accounts from crowded hospitals and empty streets painted a more dire picture of the pandemic epicentre than the official narrative.

“We will probably appeal,” the lawyer, Ren Quanniu, told Reuters, adding that the trial at a court in Pudong, a district of China’s business hub of Shanghai, ended on Monday with Zhang being sentenced to four years.

“Ms Zhang believes she is being persecuted for exercising her freedom of speech,” he had said before the trial.

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