A Chinese court has sentenced a journalist who reported from Wuhan, the city in which the Covid-19 pandemic started, to four years in jail on charges of “picking fights and provoking trouble,” one of her lawyers said.
The Pudong New Area People’s Court in the financial hub of Shanghai sentenced Zhang Zhan following accusations she spread false information, gave interviews to foreign media, disrupted public order and “maliciously manipulated” the outbreak.
Zhang, a former lawyer, arrived in Wuhan in early February from her home in Shanghai and posted on various social media platforms about the outbreak that is believed to have emerged in the central Chinese city late last year.
Zhang was detained in May and accused of spreading false information, giving interviews to foreign media, disrupting social order and attacking the government.
On Monday, December 28, she was convicted on charges of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” Zhang’s lawyer, Zhang Keke told NBC News on Monday.
Zhang did not speak or show any reaction to the court decision, her lawyer said, adding that she did not answer when asked if she wanted to appeal her sentence.
Before the sentencing hearing, Zhang said his client went “on long-term hunger strike” in detention and was being force-fed.
He said Zhang suffered from dizziness and headaches, and was “physically fragile.”
“When I met her days ago, her hands were tied to the waist and a nasogastric tube was inserted in her nose,” he said, adding that his client has not pleaded guilty.
“She has a strong will,” Zhang said.
Over the months, China has been accused of covering up the initial outbreak and delaying its response, allowing the virus to spread globally, a claim Beijing denied, saying it acted swiftly to stop the virus, which has now claimed nearly 1.8 million lives around the world.