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Chinese Citizen Journalist Sentenced to 4 Years for Covid Reporting

Zhang Zhan, a 37-year old journalist in China, has been sentenced to 4 years in jail for reporting about the COVID-19 outbreak in China. Here’s from The New York Times, “Chinese Citizen Journalist Sentenced to 4 Years for Covid Reporting” (December 28th 2020):

A Chinese court on Monday sentenced a citizen journalist who documented the early days of the coronavirus outbreak to four years in prison, sending a stark warning to those challenging the government’s official narrative of the pandemic.

Zhang Zhan, the 37-year-old citizen journalist, was the first known person to face trial for chronicling China’s outbreak. Ms. Zhang, a former lawyer, had traveled to Wuhan from her home in Shanghai in February, at the height of China’s outbreak, to see the toll from the virus in the city where it first emerged. For several months she shared videos that showed crowded hospitals and residents worrying about their incomes.

In China, the news media is tightly controlled by the state. Some citizen journalists try to offer more independent reporting, which they post on the internet and social media platforms. But their work is often censored and they are routinely punished.

Ms. Zhang was fiercely critical of the government in her dispatches, asking why it had tried to silence whistle-blowers about the virus and questioning whether Wuhan’s lockdown had been enacted too harshly.

She also directly challenged propaganda exalting the government response. Almost since the very beginning of the outbreak, the Chinese government has been locked in an unrelenting campaign to quash criticisms that it initially tried to conceal the virus. It has arrested other citizen journalists, threatened grieving family members and censored social media.

“The government’s way of managing this city has just been intimidation and threats,” she said in one of her videos. “This is truly the tragedy of this country.”

Ms. Zhang’s trial, at the Shanghai Pudong New District People’s Court on Monday, lasted less than three hours. The official charge on which she was convicted was “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” a vague charge commonly used against critics of the government. Prosecutors had initially recommended a sentence between four and five years.

I feel so disgusted reading about this that I almost get feelings of wanting to throw up. In fact, just thinking of China as a country and their totalitarian criminal government and 1984-style oppression makes me cringe in disgust.

I have no doubt that if I were in China I would have been jailed a long time ago, or more likely have been tortured and sent to one of their “re-education camps.” It’s important that people outside of China condemn what’s going on there because the tactics of control and abuse being employed there will otherwise find their way into other countries pretty soon. Much of the world has already copied their lockdown strategy, and they are in the process of exporting their surveillance and social credit system. If this is allowed to continue, we’ll soon find ourselves in a harsher and more persistent system of enslavement compared to the one we’re already in.

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