U.S demands unconditional release of journalist Zhang Zhan

Ebangla Bureau

Zhang Zhan: citizen journalist jailed for challenging China's virus story

The United States has strongly condemned the ‘People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) sham prosecution and conviction ‘’ of journalist Zhang Zhan and demanded her immediate and unconditional release. The independent Chinese journalist, who reported from Wuhan at the height of the initial coronavirus outbreak, has been jailed for four years by a Shanghai court, her lawyer said. Zhang Zhan, 37, was found guilty of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” according to one of her defence lawyers Zhang Keke, who attended her hearing. The offense is commonly used by the Chinese government to target dissidents and human rights activists, said CNN. U.S. Secretary of  State  Michael  R Pompeo said The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has shown once again it will do whatever it takes to silence those who question the Party’s official line, even regarding crucial public health information . Lying is a feature, not a bug of authoritarian regimes. The CCP restricted and manipulated information about the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan from the start and brutally silenced other brave truth-tellers, such as Dr. Li Wenliang, Chen Qiushi, and Fang Bin. Because of the CCP’s gross malfeasance, the rest of the world relied heavily on uncensored reports from citizen journalists like Zhang to understand the true situation in Wuhan after the CCP-imposed strict media controls were enforced and a controllable outbreak turned into a deadly global pandemic. Her hasty trial, to which foreign observers were denied access, shows how fearful the CCP is of Chinese citizens who speak the truth’’, Pompeo said. The PRC government’s fear of transparency and its ongoing repression of fundamental freedoms are a sign of weakness, not strength, and a threat to all of us. The United States will always support the right of Chinese citizens to express themselves freely and peacefully, Pompeo said. .  Zhang, an ex-lawyer, had travelled some 400 miles from Shanghai to Wuhan in early February to report on the pandemic and subsequent attempts to contain it, just as the authorities began reining in state-run and private Chinese media. For more than three months, she documented snippets of life under lockdown in Wuhan and the harsh reality faced by its residents, from overflowing hospitals to empty shops. She posted her observations, photos and videos on Wechat, Twitter and YouTube — the latter two of which are blocked  China, said CNN.  Her reportage stopped abruptly reported ported in mid-May, and she was later reported detained and brought back to Shanghai. Amnesty International has alleged during her detention Zhang went on hunger strike, during which period she was shackled and force fed.

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