An independent Chinese journalist who reported from Wuhan in the midst of the initial outbreak of the coronavirus epidemic has been sentenced to four years in prison.
Zhang Zhan, 37, was found guilty of causing riots and inciting trouble according to official Chinese media claims.
Zhang Zhan, a former lawyer, and independent journalist traveled from Shanghai to Wuhan in early February to report on the pandemic and attempts by Chinese authorities to contain it.
At the time, Chinese authorities were making efforts to create the illusion that China was coping well with the pandemic, and that the number of infected was much smaller than the actual number.
Most free and independent media were banned, and government agencies had exclusive rights to publish stories dictated by leaders.
For more than three months, Zhang has documented Wuhan city life during the lockdown and the real dangers residents faced.
In her videos, she showed empty shops and crowded hospitals and posted them on social media, including Twitter and Facebook, which are banned in China.
Zhang stopped publishing content in May, but while many thought it was the result of Chinese authorities’ “victory” over the virus, the truth is much uglier and more worrying.
Amnesty International, an independent and non-profit organization for the protection and promotion of human rights, claims Zhang has been arrested. In their report, they also state that she was chained and force-fed after she began a hunger strike.
Her lawyer, Zhang Keke, who visited the journalist in the prison, described on social media that a feeding tube had been placed in her nose and mouth. He also said that her hands were tied to prevent her from taking out the force-feeding device and that she was suffering from constant headaches and abdominal and throat pains.
Human rights groups in China warned about the lack of transparency of court proceedings in which journalists are prosecuted. The conviction rate in such cases is around 99 percent, and convicts are often denied legal aid during the proceedings.
Unfortunately, this last case is just one in a series of many in which the Chinese authorities ignore appeals from other governments and instructions on respect for human rights.