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A Wuhan citizen journalist jailed for four years for China’s Christmas crackdown | China

Zhang Zhan, a 37-year-old former lawyer and citizen journalist, who was arrested in May while covering from Wuhan, has been sentenced to four years in prison.

Zhang was arrested for “inciting controversy and causing trouble” – a charge commonly used against opponents, activists and journalists – with her video and blog reports from Wuhan’s lockdown. Last month, she was charged with spreading false information.

On Monday afternoon, hours after the trial began, Zhang’s lawyer said she was sentenced to four years in prison.

trial 10 Hong Kong is being held in mainland China After an alleged attempt to flee to Taiwan, it also began on Monday, amid a rush of arrests and other crackdowns against opponents, apparently with the Christmas period to avoid Western scrutiny.

The indictment document released last week said Zhang had sent “false information through text messages, video and other media via online media such as WeChat, Twitter and YouTube,” according to the prosecution document.

She added, “It has also accepted interviews from foreign media outlets Free Radio Asia and Epoch Times who speculated maliciously about the Wuhan Covid-19 epidemic.” A sentence of four to five years was recommended.

It was Zhang Tied 24 hours a dayHer lawyer, Zhang Keiki, said earlier this month that she was forced to tube feed her after she went on hunger strike. Zhang Kiki visited again on Christmas Day, and in a blog post he said that his client had lost between 15 and 20 kilograms and that her hair had been cut.

“She feels emotionally exhausted, as if every day is torture.”

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About a dozen supporters and diplomats gathered outside the New People’s Court in Shanghai Pudong District Monday morning, but the police removed journalists and observers from the entrance when Zhang and her lawyer arrived.

Zhang – one of several citizen journalists held in Wuhan around the same time – has denied the charges and says all of her reports were from direct accounts with locals. His fellow journalist, citizen Fang Bin, was arrested in February, but his whereabouts remain secret. Chen Mei and Cai Wei are awaiting trial in Beijing after being arrested in April for archiving controlled information about the virus.

Chen Kyoshi, who was detained in Wuhan in February, was Chest To his parents’ house under close scrutiny.

The families of 10 Hong Kong residents who were arrested after their alleged attempt to reach Taiwan said they were only informed of the trial on Friday, and it did not give them time to travel to Shenzhen and complete their quarantine in time to attend. The trial was not broadcast live, and the media appeared unable to enter the courtroom and turn it into a “de facto secret trial,” the families said.

“By conducting a 12-secret trial and preventing the media and families from attending, the Chinese authorities are ignoring basic human rights and are acting against the” sunny justice “principle that they are promoting,” they said in a statement on Monday. .

RTHK from Shenzhen reported that court officials said the trial was open to the public but all seats had already been reserved.

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Ahead of the trial, the US State Department called for the group’s release, with an official saying the “only alleged crime” was “fleeing tyranny.”

The People’s Court of Yantian County in Shenzhen announced last week that 10 of the 12 people were allegedly traveling by boat to Taiwan When they were intercepted by the Guangdong Coast Guard in August, they were accused of organizing or participating in an illegal border crossing. The other two are minors and will be tried at a later time. Since their arrest, the detainees have been almost entirely prevented from communicating with their families and denied access to their chosen lawyers.

The last-minute trials came amid a flurry of activity by authorities targeting dissidents, lawyers and journalists. Chinese authorities have a history of using the holiday period, when many Western governments and NGOs spend the Christmas holidays, for prosecutions and arrests.

Additional reporting by agencies.

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