COVID-19: A “citizen journalist” will be tried after her reports in Wuhan

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BEIJING | A Chinese “citizen journalist” arrested after covering the quarantine of Wuhan, cradle of the new coronavirus, will be tried at the end of the month, her lawyer announced on Friday.

• Read also: All developments in the COVID-19 pandemic

Zhang Zhan, a former lawyer, visited the epidemic-stricken city in central China in February, posting reports on social media, including on the chaotic situation in hospitals.

China’s initial response to the outbreak’s onset was criticized abroad, with Beijing waiting until January 23 to quarantine Wuhan and its region, when cases were reported as early as December 2019.

Doctors who had mentioned the appearance of a mysterious virus were questioned by the police who accused them of “spreading rumors”.

Ms. Zhang was arrested in May on charges of “provoking unrest,” a terminology frequently used against opponents of the Communist regime, according to a court opinion read by AFP.

She faces a five-year prison sentence during the trial scheduled to open on December 28 in Shanghai, according to her lawyers.

Ms. Zhang, 37, went on a hunger strike in June to protest her detention and has since been force-fed using a nasal tube, the sources said.

One of his lawyers, Zhang Keke, claimed on social media that his client’s condition was worrying.

“Tied up 24 hours a day, she needs help getting to the bathroom,” he said.

In articles that she posted online earlier this year, Ms. Zhang criticized the quarantine of Wuhan, citing “a serious violation of human rights.”

Three other citizen journalists, Chen Qiushi, Fang Bin and Li Zehua, were also detained after covering the events. AFP was unable to contact their lawyers.

The first country affected by the epidemic, China has largely managed to contain the virus, with a death toll of 4,634, the vast majority in Wuhan and its region. The last death was recorded in May.

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