US, EU asks China to release citizen reporter Zhang Zhan locked up for covering Wuhan coronavirus outbreak

By Simdi Gloria:-

The European Union and the United States on Tuesday denounced China’s court system after a citizen journalist who reported on the early coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan was sentenced to four years in prison.

“The United States strongly condemns the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) sham prosecution and conviction of citizen journalist Zhang Zhan on December 28,” US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement. “We call on the PRC government to release her immediately and unconditionally.”

Zhang was found guilty by a court in Shanghai on Monday for “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”, a broadly defined offence which carries a maximum sentence of five years and is often used by police to stifle dissent. “Her hasty trial, to which foreign observers were denied access, shows how fearful the CCP is of Chinese citizens who speak the truth,” Pompeo said, referring to the Chinese Communist Party.

Separately, Peter Stano an EU foreign policy spokesman, also condemned the treatment of Zhang, saying that she had reportedly been “subject to torture and ill-treatment during her detention and her health condition has seriously deteriorated”.

Zhang attended her trial in a wheelchair, her lawyer said on Monday, following reports that she had tried to engage in a hunger strike while in custody.

“It is crucial that she receives adequate medical assistance,” Stano said.
Alongside Zhang’s sentencing, trial was held in Shenzhen for 10 Hong Kong pro-democracy activists, among a group of 12 who had tried to flee the city via speedboat to Taiwan in August but were detained at sea by Chinese authorities.

That trial was as well condemned by the EU.

“The defendants’ rights to a fair trial and due process – in accordance with international human rights law and as provided by China’s Criminal Procedure Law – have not been respected,” Stano said in a separate statement.

“The European Union calls for the immediate release of these 12 individuals and their swift return to Hong Kong.”

China was also identified as the No 1 jailer of journalists globally in 2020, the second year in a row, according to an analysis this month by the Committee to Protect Journalists, a press freedom organisation.

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