The Pudong district prosecutor last week asked for five years in prison for blogger Zhang Zhan, according to the indictment sheet obtained yesterday by Chinese Human Rights Defenders (CHRD).
The 37-year-old “journalist citizen”, who from February to mid-May reported on the Covid-19 emergency in Wuhan (Hubei), the epicentre of the coronavirus pandemic, was officially arrested on June 19.
The accusation is of having “disturbed social stability and created problems of public order”. The police detained her on May 15 while she was at the Caiguang Hotel in Wuhan, and then moved her to Pudong prison in Shanghai, the city where she resides.
In her last live stream on YouTube, posted on May 13, Zhang spoke of about the loss of jobs in Wuhan, the difficulties of local taxi drivers in the absence of customers and the intimidation that the population suffered at the hands of urban police (Chengguan).
In her posts, the blogger has often been critical of the government’s management of the crisis. Investigators claim that Zhang is guilty of spreading false information on the coronavirus through online platforms such as WeChat, Twitter and YouTube, as well as agreeing to be interviewed on the subject by foreign media.
Zhang denies all charges; in September she started a hunger strike which the prison authorities forcibly stopped. She had already been arrested in September 2019 in Shanghai: she spent 60 days in jail for demonstrating in favour of pro-democracy demonstrators in Hong Kong. Friends fear that her Christian faith will lead her to martyrdom.
CHRD recalls that Zhang also reported in other independent journalists arrested in Wuhan. Three of them disappeared in the Hubei capital in February. Li Zehua, who had denounced the city’s crematoria open 19 hours a day, reappeared on April 22 after a spell under arrest.
Chen Qiushi is under the “supervision” of the authorities. There is no news of Fang Bin, however.
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