Zhang Zhan, a devout Christian citizen-journalist was sentenced to four years in jail for reporting on the COVID-19 outbreak in the central city of Wuhan earlier this year, as reported by Reuters.
The 37-year-old former lawyer traveled to Wuhan to tell of the virus’ devastation in overcrowded hospitals with first-hand reports. According to Faithwire, Zhan believed God called her to the city.
“I warned her about going to Wuhan when everyone else was trying to leave,” said her friend Li Dawei. “She is a staunch Christian and said it was God’s will. She had to do this and tell everyone the truth.”
Zhan’s lawyer Ran Quanniu said they are likely to appeal the ruling.
“I don’t understand,” Zhan’s mother said after the trial. “All she did was say a few true words, and for that she got four years.”
Some Chinese critics believe the country purposefully planned the trial during the US holidays to detract Western attention. But the United Nations has demanded Zhan’s release and called the sentence “an example of the excessive clampdown on freedom of expression linked to COVID-19.” Government leaders have consistently threatened doctors and whistle-blowers to maintain the narrative that President Xi Jinping successfully curbed the virus’ growth.
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Zhan appeared in a wheelchair in court this week. She was detained in mid-May and went on a hunger strike in June. Her lawyers say police strapped down her hands and forced her to eat through a tube.
She said little during her trial.
“[During the trial], the prosecutor only read out the list of evidence, without showing most of it, including the core evidence,” said Zhang Keke, one of her attorneys. “Zhang Zhan said citizens’ speech should not be censored. But, apart from that, she basically did not speak.”
Yet, her attorneys say Zhan remains steadfast to her love for God in jail. She quoted 1 Corinthians 10:13 in a recent visit, which says, “God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, He will show you a way out so that you can endure.”