Chinese Government Sentences Journalist To Four Years In Jail For Reporting On The Spread Of The Coronavirus
from the we-have-ways-of-making-you-(not)-talk dept
Shortly after the coronavirus started showing up everywhere uninvited, President Trump decided to amplify his China-centric trade war with a war of words, referring to the new virus as the “China virus.” The Chinese state media responded by suggesting the United States was actually the source of the virus, and then everything just kind of went to hell for awhile. Both countries took turns throwing each other’s journalists out — something that made a lot of noise but didn’t really accomplish anything.
With that spat behind it, China went back to doing what it does best: locking up its own citizens. This was done with more enthusiasm than usual, since the state media’s attempt to control the coronavirus narrative failed spectacularly, contradicted by local reports that managed to escape the Chinese government’s blockade.
The government is still rounding up journalists and locking them up for reporting on the local spread of the virus. Zhang Zhan, former lawyer and current journalist, has been incarcerated since May of this year. She’s accused of “picking quarrels and stirring up trouble.” The schoolground wording belies the severity of these charges, which are a convenient catch-all for journalists, dissidents, and critics of the state.
Little had been heard about Zhang’s arrest (and the others that accompanied) since earlier this year. The government finally released information on the charges in mid-November. Zhang’s charges — which include accusations of spreading “false information” via the internet — come with a recommended sentence of 4-6 years.
This isn’t Zhang’s first run-in with the Chinese government.
Zhang was previously detained on similar accusations by Chinese authorities in 2018, and again in 2019 for voicing support for Hong Kong activists. She was detained for more than two months and forced to undergo psychiatric assessments, CHRD said.
This one is the most severe, though. The government’s previous attempts to intimidate Zhang into silence failed. Even if this latest attempt doesn’t work, it will be a long time before the government has to worry about quarrels being picked or trouble stirred up by Zhang.
Zhang Zhan, a 37-year-old former lawyer and citizen journalist who was arrested in May while reporting from Wuhan, has been sentenced to four years in jail.
Zhang is one of at least a half-dozen journalists arrested for reporting on the situation in Wuhan as the virus spread earlier this year. The government won’t allow competing narratives to stand. This was amply demonstrated weeks before the virus started wreaking havoc in other countries when the Chinese government arrested doctors and whistleblowers for sounding the alarm about the dangerous new illness.
Given the worldwide spread of the virus and the Chinese government’s desire to distance itself from its failure to handle its own COVID problem, China should soon overtake a resurgent Turkey to reclaim the top spot on the Most Journalists Jailed chart.