BEIJING – A court in China sentenced a civilian journalist, who is believed to have been confirmed by his lawyer, about the Wuhan, Kovid-19 epidemic, the city in which he was jailed for four years.
37-year-old Zhang Zhan was one of the many civilian journalists whose firsthand account the virus had emerged about a year earlier.
A former lawyer, Zhang, arrived in early February from his home in Wuhan in Shanghai in a series of online posts to document how the city is holding up against the new, deadly virus. Some of his posts were critical of the Chinese government’s response.
Jang was detained in May and charged with spreading false information to interview foreign media, disrupt the social system and attack the government.
On Monday, he was convicted on charges of “causing a quarrel and causing trouble”, Zhang’s lawyer, Zhang KK, who is not related to a civilian journalist, told NBC News on Monday. Zhang did not react or give any response to the court’s decision, her lawyer said she did not respond when asked if she wanted to appeal her sentence.
Prior to the sentencing hearing, Zhang said his client had been “on a prolonged hunger strike” and kept in custody.
He said that Zhang was suffering from vertigo and headaches, and was “physically fragile.”
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“When I met him a few days ago, his hands were tied at the waist and a nasogastric tube was inserted in his nose,” he said, adding that his client pleaded not guilty.
“He has a strong will,” Zhang said.
Human rights organization Amnesty International also sounded the alarm earlier this month about Zhang’s health and “risks of further torture and other ominous treatment”.
The United Nations Human Rights Office said A tweet On Monday, it was “deeply concerned” by Zhang’s sentence, stating that he called for his release after raising his case with the authorities as an example of excessive domination over freedom of expression associated with Kovid-19. Will continue
China has been accused of covering up the initial outbreak and delaying its response, causing the virus to spread globally. Beijing has denied all the allegations, saying it has acted swiftly to stop the virus, which has now claimed about 1.8 million lives worldwide.
China’s early handling of the crisis has been widely criticized within the country, with whistleblowers and state media acknowledging China’s success in containing the virus. The country’s health authorities say they have recorded only 86,976 cases since the epidemic began, while there are more than 80 million cases worldwide.
In the early days of the outbreak, authorities reprimanded many Wuhan doctors for spreading rumors after trying to warn the public about the new virus. The most famous of them, Li Wenliang, later Kovid-19 died and became a national hero.
Several other civilian journalists who had moved out of Wuhan during the initial epidemic were also targeted.
Phang Bin, who shared videos from hospitals in Wuhan on YouTube, has been missing since February. The South China Morning Post said that Chen Qureshi, who went missing in February after making social media posts about the outbreak in the city, is closed and has not spoken publicly. Another civilian journalist, who reported from Wuhan, Li Zhua, reappeared in a YouTube video in April to say that he had been forcibly released after being missing for nearly two months.
Eric Baculino reported from Beijing, Yulia Talmajan from London.
Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
Janis McKay Fryer has contributed.