Zhang Zhan Biography — Wiki
Zhang Zhan is a Chinese citizen journalist who was arrested after ‘reporting the truth’ about the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan and was today jailed for four years. Zhan has been found guilty of ‘picking quarrels and provoking trouble’ for her criticism of the Wuhan government’s handling of the crisis at the peak of the outbreak.
Ms. Zhang – the first citizen journalist known to have been tried – was among a handful of people whose firsthand accounts from crowded hospitals and empty streets painted a more dire picture of the pandemic epicenter than the official narrative.
Zhang Zhan Age
Zhang Zhan is 37 years old.
Zhang Zhan jailed after ‘reporting the truth’ of Wuhan’s coronavirus outbreak
Zhang Zhan’s lawyer Ren Quanniu said they will likely appeal her four-year sentence handed down at a court in Pudong, Shanghai. Before the trial – which ended at 12.30 pm local time – he said: ‘Ms. Zhang believes she is being persecuted for exercising her freedom of speech.’
Criticism of China’s early handling of the crisis has been censored, and whistle-blowers, such as doctors, have been warned off speaking out. State media have credited success in reining in the virus to the leadership of President Xi Jinping.
A New York-based human rights organization earlier told MailOnline that Ms. Zhang was being punished ‘for doing exactly what the world desperately needed: reporting on the coronavirus from Wuhan’.
Home to some 11million people, the Chinese provincial capital caught international attention last December when coronavirus first broke out there before spreading around the globe, with at least 1.7 million reported deaths so far.
In Shanghai, police enforced tight security outside the court where the trial opened seven months after Ms. Zhang’s detention, although some supporters were undeterred. A man in a wheelchair, who came from the central province of Henan to demonstrate support for Ms. Zhang as a fellow Christian, wrote her name on a poster before police arrived to escort him away.
What we know so far about Zhang Zhan and her lawyer
Foreign journalists were denied entry to the court ‘due to the epidemic’, court security officials said.
Ms. Zhang Zhan – a former lawyer – arrived in Wuhan on February 1 from her home in Shanghai.
Her short video clips uploaded to YouTube consist of interviews with residents, commentary and footage of a crematorium, train stations, hospitals and the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Detained in mid-May, she went on a hunger strike in late June, court documents revealed. Her lawyers told the court that police strapped her hands and force-fed her with a tube.
By December, she was suffering headaches, giddiness, stomach ache, low blood pressure, and throat infection.
Another one of Ms. Zhang’s lawyers, Zhang Keke, described the grim situation of his client after visiting her in a detention center in Shanghai earlier this month – according to a post on Weiquan Net, a Chinese website that publishes updates about activists.
Her restraint belts had made it difficult for her to sleep at night and she needed assistance for the toilet, the post read.
Ms. Zhang was ‘completely exhausted’ and ‘felt every day is tormented’, and could not stop crying during the meeting with her lawyer. She refused to halt her hunger strike even though her lawyer had pleaded with her to stop on behalf of her family and friends.
She also allegedly denied the official accusations that she had fabricated false information and insisted that all her reports had come from first-hand interviews and real-location visits in Wuhan.
According to Weiquan Net, Ms. Zhang’s persecution documents were released by the People’s Procuratorate of Pudong New District of Shanghai on September 15.
One of the official files accused Ms. Zhang of ‘maliciously hyping the epidemic of the novel coronavirus pneumonia in Wuhan’ through popular Chinese messaging app WeChat, as well as Twitter and YouTube. The prosecutor claimed that Ms. Zhang had spread a large amount of false information’ through text and videos and accepted interviews with foreign media outlets.
Requests to the court to release Zhang on bail before the trial and Livestream the trial went ignored, her lawyer said. Other citizen-journalists who had disappeared without explanation included Fang Bin, Chen Qiushi and Li Zehua.