China has sentenced a citizen journalist to 4 years in prison for covering Covid-19 in Wuhan.
Wuhan critical reporter
Zhang zhan is a 37-year-old Chinese journalist who covered, with her mobile phone, the impact of the epidemic in Wuhan in February 2019. This former lawyer used to defending her ideals – described by her relatives as “stubborn” – has broadcast his reports on Chinese and foreign social networks.
By denouncing the chaotic situation of hospitals and the concealment of the authorities on the Covid-19, Zhang Zhan can be considered as a real whistleblower. Indeed, China’s late reaction to the start of the epidemic has been heavily criticized. Beijing waited until January 23, 2020 to put Wuhan under quarantine even though cases had arisen in December 2019. It frankly opposed the confinement of Wuhan denouncing “a serious violation of human rights”.
Zhang Zhan also questioned the party’s communication policy. The latter asks from March to its citizens a “gratitude” to the government for its management of the crisis. Zhang Zhan will directly question passers-by to show the relativity of this citizen recognition.
A conviction for “provocation to unrest”
The journalist was arrested in May 2020 accused of “provoking unrest” for having disseminated false information. In response to these grievances, Zhang Zhan went on a hunger strike in June. However, she was force-fed through a nasal tube while in detention. His lawyers reported that his physical and psychological condition was worrying.
This Monday, December 28, 2020, Chinese justice tried Zhang Zhan behind closed doors. No journalist was able to attend the hearing. Sentenced to 4 years in prison by the People’s Court, the journalist had already aroused suspicion for her sympathy towards pro-democracy activists in the past.
Other journalists threatened by the Communist Party
Journalist Zhang Zhan’s conviction is far from an isolated case. Other journalists including Chen Qiushi, Fang Bin and Li Zehua were also threatened and then detained. Another trial is underway, that of a group of Hong Kong activists who tried to flee to Taiwan.
The severe repression of critical views on the epidemic situation shows that China is struggling to move towards a rule of law. It is only by accepting criticism that a state nevertheless proves its strength and authority.