Beijing – A Chinese court on Monday ruled a former lawyer who reported early stage of Coronavirus outbreak One of her lawyers said that he was in prison for four years for “inciting quarrels and inciting trouble.” Zhang Chan was sentenced by the People’s Court of Pudong New District in Shanghai’s financial hub after accusing her of spreading false information, interviewing foreign media, creating public order and “maliciously manipulating” the outbreak.
Attorney Zhang Keiki confirmed the verdict but said it was “inappropriate” to provide details – usually an indication that the court issued a partial gag order. He said the court did not ask Zhang whether or not to appeal, nor did it clarify whether or not she would.
Zhang, 37, traveled to Wuhan in February and posted on various social media platforms about the outbreak that is believed to have emerged in the city in central China late last year.
She was arrested in May amid strict nationwide measures aimed at curbing the outbreak and tight censorship to deflect criticism of the government’s initial response. Zhang reportedly went on a prolonged hunger strike while in detention, prompting authorities to forcibly feed her, and she is said to be in poor health.
Earlier this month, attorney Flor Chang, who wished to remain anonymous He told CBS News Zhang was restrained 24 hours a day with a belt around her waist and her hands tied to prevent her from pulling out the feeding tube.
The lawyer, who has visited her at least twice, said that she was suffering from headache, dizziness, and stomach and mouth pain due to the insertion of a gastric tube for forced feeding, and that Zhang told him that “every day is torture.”
Zhang is among the many citizen journalists whose work provided some of the only glimpses to the outside world of what was happening in Wuhan in the early days of the coronavirus epidemic – and who were subsequently detained by the Chinese government.
Citizen journalist Chen Qiushi went missing in February around the same time as Li Zihua and Fang Bin, who are based in Wuhan, both of whom also reported the outbreak of the Coronavirus in Wuhan. Li Zihua was released in April.
China has been accused of covering up the initial outbreak and delaying the release of important information, enabling the virus to spread and contributing to the epidemic that has infected more than 80 million people worldwide and killed nearly 1.8 million. Beijing vehemently denies the accusations, saying it took swift action that gave the rest of the world time to prepare.
The ruling Communist Party of China tightly controls the media and seeks to prevent the publication of information it has not agreed to publish.
In the early days of the outbreak, authorities reprimanded several Wuhan doctors for “spreading rumors” after they alerted friends on social media. The most famous physician, Li Wenliang, later succumbed to COVID-19.
Separately, Agence France-Presse reported that China has brought to trial 10 of 12 pro-democracy activists who attempted to flee Hong Kong by speedboat to Taiwan.
The United States has urged the immediate release of the dissidents it says “have fled tyranny.”
The ten, dubbed “Hong Kong 12”, were in a court in the southern city of Shenzhen. Their boat was intercepted on 23 August.
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