China jails citizen journalist for four years over Wuhan reports

A Chinese citizen journalist who covered Wuhan's coronavirus outbreak has been jailed for four years.

Zhang Zhan 37, a former lawyer, was arrested in May while reporting from Wuhan. She was found guilty of "picking quarrels and provoking trouble", a frequent charge against activists.

Ms Zhang is one of several citizen journalists who have 'run into trouble' for reporting on the coronavirus crisis in Wuhan.

The prosecution of 10 Hong Kongers detained in mainland China after allegedly attempting to flee to Taiwan also began Monday, amid a crackdown apparently timed with the Christmas period to avoid western scrutiny.

After the hearing, Zhang’s lawyer, Zhang Keke said Zhang appeared in court in a wheelchair, and that her mother burst into tears when the verdict was announced.

Zhang has been restrained 24 hours-a-day, and force fed with a tube after she went on hunger strike, Zhang Keke said earlier this month. Zhang Keke visited again on Christmas day, and in a blog post said his client had lost 15 to 20kg and her hair had been cut short.

“She feels psychologically exhausted, like every day is a torment.”

In December alone, authorities have arrested a Bloomberg journalist, Haze Fan, on unspecified national security allegations; human rights activist, Ou Biaofen, after he publicised the case of an activist sent to a psychiatric facility; and documentary journalist Du Bin. Ou and Du were both arrested for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”.