China jails whistle-blower who reported truth about Covid in Wuhan 

A Chinese citizen journalist has been jailed for four years because she reported what she saw in the crowded hospitals of Wuhan when the coronavirus first impacted the city.

Zhang Zhan, 37, has been found guilty in the Shanghai Pudong New District People’s Court of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” because she criticised the Chinese’s government’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis.

Foreign journalists were denied entry to the court ‘due to the epidemic’, the Daily Mail reported, while police covered cameras to stop journalists recording outside the court.

Ms Zhang accounts of crowded hospitals and empty streets painted a more accurate picture of the pandemic than the official narrative. Her lawyer Ren Quanniu said “she is being persecuted for exercising her freedom of speech.”

A video posted by Ms Zhang to YouTube showed the emergency room of the Hubei Provincial People’s Hospital overrun by sick patients who were sleeping in the corridor

China has moved to censor criticism of it’s handling of the crisis, and doctors who have wished to speak out have been warned off – or vanished from public sight. The state media have instead credited Chinese Premier Xi Jinping with managing Covid-19 – and have attempted to blame the outbreak on other factors.

Outside the court, one protester in a wheelchair said he wanted to support Ms Zhang as a fellow Christian but was escorted away by police.

After being arrested in mid-May, Ms Zhang went on a hunger strike in late June, court documents revealed. Police then strapped her hands and force-fed her with a tube, her lawyers said. They said the citizen journalist was being held in restraints and had told them she was “completely exhausted’ and ‘”felt every day is torment”.

She is accused by prosecutors of spreading ‘a large amount of false information’ which she denies.

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