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Chinese citizen journalist praised for ‘reporting the truth’ of Wuhan’s COVID-19 outbreak receives four-year jail sentence

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A Chinese citizen journalist who reported from Wuhan, the city where the coronavirus pandemic began, has been sentenced Monday to four years in prison after “reporting the truth” about the outbreak, her lawyer confirmed.

Zhang Zhan was one of a number of citizen journalists whose eyewitness reports from when the virus first appeared about a year ago presented a more grim depiction of the early stage of the pandemic, such as jam-packed hospitals and empty streets, which contradicted the official narrative of the country’s authoritarian government.

Back in early February, Zhang traveled from her home city of Shanghai to Wuhan in order to document how the city was handling the virus outbreak in a series of posts online. Some of her posts were critical of the Chinese government’s response.

It was in May that Zhang was arrested, being accused of spreading false information, disrupting social order, giving interviews to foreign media, and criticizing the government.

China has censored criticism toward its handling of the coronavirus early on in the pandemic. Whistleblowers, especially doctors, have been told not to speak out.

The international community has been especially critical of China’s censoring of journalists and whistleblowers and the country’s handling of the early outbreaks which then spread across the entire globe.

Zhang was sentenced to jail Monday on charges of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” her lawyer, Zhang Keke, who is not related to the 37-year-old, told NBC News on Monday. Zhang did not speak or display any reaction to the court’s ruling, her lawyer mentioned, also saying that, when she was asked if she wanted to appeal her sentence, she offered no answer.

Prior to the delivering of Zhang’s sentence, her lawyer said the citizen journalist went “on long-term hunger strike” in detention and was being force-fed, NBC News reports.

He said Zhang was “physically fragile,” and suffered from dizziness and headaches, per NBC News.

“When I met her days ago, her hands were tied to the waist and a nasogastric tube was inserted in her nose,” he said, emphasizing that his client has not pleaded guilty, according to NBC News.

“She has a strong will,” he added.

Also before the trial, which concluded at 12:30 pm local time, The Daily Mail reports her lawyer saying: ‘Ms. Zhang believes she is being persecuted for exercising her freedom of speech.’

According to the The Mail‘s Monday report, a New York-based human rights organization had earlier told MailOnline that Zhang was being punished ‘for doing exactly what the world desperately needed: reporting on the coronavirus from Wuhan’.

Earlier this month, the human rights organization Amnesty International elevated the story of Zhang, raising concerns about the citizen journalist’s health and the “risk of further torture and other ill-treatment”.

On Monday morning, the United Nations Human Rights office tweeted that it was “deeply concerned by” Zhang’s four-year sentence, saying that her case is “an example of the excessive clampdown on freedom of expression linked to” COVID-19. The account added that it would continue to call for her release from prison.

The international community has largely accused China, a one-party communist state, of covering up the initial outbreak and delaying its response at the beginning of the outbreak, allowing the deadly virus to wreak havoc across the world. Despite there being more than 80 million COVID-19 cases worldwide, the country’s health officials claim they have only recorded 86,976 cases since the start of the pandemic.

During the early stages of the outbreak in China, government authorities went after many doctors in Wuhan after they tried to warn the public about the novel deadly virus. The most infamous case was that of Dr. Li Wenliang, who later reportedly succumbed to the coronavirus in early February.

RELATED: Chinese Doctor Who Blew The Whistle On Coronavirus Dies

Want more details of the story? Then read the full reports from NBC News here and The Daily Mail here.

You can follow Douglas Braff on Twitter @Douglas_P_Braff.

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U.S. Commerce Department: Chinese firms are supplying Russian entities

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On Tuesday, the United States Commerce Department said several companies in China are supplying Russia’s military. The announcement was made alongside a “new round of blacklist restrictions for foreign firms aiding Moscow’s war against Ukraine” reports National Review.

“These entities have previously supplied items to Russian entities of concern before February 24, 2022 and continue to contract to supply Russian entity listed and sanctioned parties after Russia’s further invasion of Ukraine,” stated an official Commerce Department notice posted to the Federal Register.

“Commerce also blacklisted several Chinese companies and Chinese government research institutes for their work on naval-technology and supplying Iran with U.S. tech in a way that harms America’s national security” adds National Review.

Six companies that are helping further the Russian invasion are also based in Lithuania, Russia, the U.K., Uzbekistan, and Vietnam.

National Review reports:

The Commerce Department stopped short of blaming the Chinese government for the sanctions-evasion activity it identified today. Commerce secretary Gina Raimondo previously said that there doesn’t appear to be any “systemic efforts by China to go around our export controls.” The Biden administration has publicly and privately warned Beijing against supporting the Russian war, with White House officials even leaking to the press about an effort to present China’s ambassador in Washington with information about Russian troop movements ahead of the invasion.

While Beijing has not expressed outright support for the invasion, it has used its propaganda networks to back Moscow’s narrative. Meanwhile, top Chinese and Russian officials have moved to solidify the “no-limits” partnership they declared in early February. General secretary Xi Jinping and Vladimir Putin held a call this month, marking the construction of a new bridge between their two countries, during which they reiterated their support for the burgeoning geopolitical alignment.

National-security adviser Jake Sullivan said last month that the U.S. has no indications that Beijing has provided Russia with military equipment. A Finnish think tank, the Centre for Research on Energy and Clean Air, estimated on June 12 that Chinese imports of Russian oil since the outset of the conflict have amounted to $13 billion, making China the biggest consumer of the country’s oil exports. Previously, it was Germany. “While Germany cut back on purchases since the start of the war, China’s oil and gas imports from Russia rose in February and remained at a roughly constant level since,” the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission noted.

Official advisor Anton Gerashchenko tweeted incredible video of Ukrainian soldiers sweeping through fields, writing “this is how our fields are de-mined so that farmers can harvest crops.”  On Monday a Russian missile struck a mall in Kremenchuk, Ukraine, where over 1,000 civilians were inside.

“Almost two dozen people were still missing Tuesday one day after a Russian airstrike struck a Ukrainian shopping mall and killed 18 civilians inside…On top of the 18 dead and 21 people missing, Ukrainian Interior Minster Denis Monastyrsky said 59 were injured. Several of the dead were burned beyond recognition” reported the New York Post.

 

 

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