U.S. condemns ‘sham’ conviction of Chinese citizen journalist

A pro-democracy activist holds placards with the picture of Chinese citizen journalist Zhang Zhan outside the Chinese central government's liaison office, in Hong Kong, Monday, Dec. 28, 2020. Zhang, a former lawyer and citizen journalist from Shanghai, has been sentenced to four years in prison for her reporting on the initial coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, China. The activists demand the releases of Zhang, as well as the 12 Hong Kong activists detained at sea by Chinese authorities. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)

New York, Dec. 29, 2020 The U.S. has “strongly” condemned the “sham prosecution and conviction” of citizen journalist Zhang Zhan by the Chinese government.

Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, who conveyed the U.S. position in a statement on Tuesday, called for Zhan’s immediate and unconditional release.

Pompeo said by the action, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) had again demonstrated its resolve to silence those who question its actions, even regarding crucial public health information.

Zhan, who covered the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan, was arrested in May and later found guilty of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”.

Reports say the 37-year-old former lawyer is one of several citizen journalists whose firsthand accounts of the outbreak painted a worse picture than government’s official narrative.

Following her arrest, she was accused of spreading false information, giving interviews to foreign media, disrupting social order and attacking the government.

Pompeo’s statement said: “Lying is a feature, not a bug of authoritarian regimes.

“The CCP restricted and manipulated information about the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan from the start and brutally silenced other brave truth-tellers, such as Dr Li Wenliang, Chen Qiushi, and Fang Bin.

“Because of the CCP’s gross malfeasance, the rest of the world relied heavily on uncensored reports from citizen journalists like Zhang to understand the true situation in Wuhan after the CCP-imposed strict media controls were enforced and a controllable outbreak turned into a deadly global pandemic.

“Her hasty trial, to which foreign observers were denied access, shows how fearful the CCP is of Chinese citizens who speak the truth.

“The PRC government’s fear of transparency and its ongoing repression of fundamental freedoms are a sign of weakness, not strength, and a threat to all of us.”

The Secretary of State said the U.S. remained committed to supporting the right of Chinese citizens to express themselves freely and peacefully.

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