China Sends Lawyer To 4 Years In Prison For Reporting On COVID

On Monday a court in China sentenced former lawyer, Zhang Zhan, who reported on the early stage of the coronavirus outbreak, to four years in prison on charges of “picking fights and provoking trouble,” one of her lawyers said according to the Associated Press.

The Pudong New Area People’s Court in the financial hub of Shanghai gave the sentence to Zhang following accusations she spread false information, gave interviews to foreign media, disrupted public order and “maliciously manipulated” the outbreak.

Zhang, 37, traveled to Wuhan in February and posted on various social media platforms about the outbreak.

Her lawyer Zhang Keke confirmed the sentence but said it was “inconvenient” to provide details — usually an indication that the court has issued a partial gag order. He said the court did not ask Zhang whether she would appeal, nor did she indicate whether she would.

Zhang Zhan was arrested in May during heavy censorship the Chinese government employed to deflect criticism of the initial response. Zhang reportedly went on a prolonged hunger strike while in detention, prompting authorities to forcibly feed her, and is said to be in poor health.

In the early days of the outbreak, Chinese authorities reprimanded several Wuhan doctors for “rumor-mongering” after they alerted friends on social media. The best known of the doctors, Li Wenliang, later succumbed to COVID-19.