Beijing: Citizen journalist Zhang Zhan, who was detained in May for her live stream reporting from Wuhan over COVID-19, has been sentenced to four years of imprisonment on Monday, Hong Kong Free Press (HKFP) reported.
She has been convicted of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” for her reporting in the chaotic initial stages of the outbreak.
Dozens of her supporters and diplomats gathered outside Shanghai Pudong New District People’s Court on Monday morning before the trial began, according to HKFP.
The police, however, pushed journalists and observers away from the entrance.
The New York Times reported that the 37-year-old former lawyer is on a hunger strike since June. According to her lawyers, she has been forced fed via a nasal tube as concerns grow about her health.
“She said she refuses to participate in the trial. She says it’s an insult,” Ren Quanniu, one of the lawyers said after visiting Zhang in mid-December in Shanghai, where she is being held.
Ren, who visited separately later, pleaded with Zhang to eat. But she refused, Ren said.
“She’s much paler than in her videos and photos — deathly pale,” Ren said, adding that Zhang appeared to have aged several decades. “It’s really hard to believe that she’s the same person as you saw online.”
China’s court system is notoriously opaque, with sensitive cases often heard behind closed doors.
The trial comes just weeks before an international team of World Health Organization experts are expected to arrive in China to investigate the origins of COVID-19.