Chinese citizen journalist, Zhang Zhan, to face the judges soon. Photograph:( Twitter )
The district prosecutors are now alleging her of fabricating information related to the novel coronavirus
A Chinese ex-lawyer and a citizen journalist, Zhang Zhan, is being subjected to a possible jail time for nearly five years for reporting on the coronavirus pandemic, that allegedly started in a Wuhan lab.
The 37-year-old Shanghai-based citizen journalist was arrested by the local police authorities in mid-May on the allegations of "picking quarrels and provoking trouble".
The district prosecutors are now alleging her of fabricating information related to the novel coronavirus which has affected millions of lives all around the world since the end of 2019. "She is now being accused of fabricating malicious and false information about the coronavirus pandemic in Wuhan and accepting interviews with overseas media," a source revealed.
There are also fears that she will be punished with maximum penalty, as the prosecutors are now also citing her alleged previous offences from 2018 and 2019.
Zhan, who is currently in a detention centre in Shanghai, has resumed eating food on regular basis. The citizen journalist had earlier gone on a hunger strike in the second month of her arrest, claiming she will break the strike only if she is released unconditionally. "She was initially being force-fed and put on drips when she first started the hunger strike as she demanded to be released unconditionally," the source revealed. At that time, her cell-mates were being asked to force-feed her. However, later, she resumed consuming food on her own.
She was arrested after she travelled to Wuhan, where the coronavirus allegedly began and live-streamed the condition of the city through her social media accounts on Twitter and Facebook. She also penned down an article criticising the way the outbreak was handled by the Chinese government and raised the question of whether the censorship in the severity of the outbreak was intentional by Xi's government.
Following the live streaming and the reports, Zhan was arrested by the Shanghai Police on May 15, but was officially charged three months later, citing concerns about her safety and well-being. Now, in addition to allegedly generating fale information, she is also being charged for “picking quarrels” and “disrupting public order" — two offences from April and November 2019 respectively and for allegedly inciting subversion — an accusation from August 2018.
If proven guilty, she could face a jail term for four to five years.
In addition to Zhan, three other citizen journalists — Li Zehua, Chen Qiushi and Fang Bin — have also been detained by the Chinese government on the allegation of generating false information, after they live-streamed the condition of the country during the pandemic, and questioned the government's motives.