A Chinese citizen journalist who had uploaded coronavirus reports from Wuhan onto social media to criticise the city’s handling of the outbreak has been arrested, according to reports.
The Shanghai resident Zhang Zhan, reportedly to be 40, was removed by police on Friday for allegedly ‘picking quarrels and provoking trouble’, according to The Times and South China Morning Post.
She is said to be the fourth Chinese citizen reporters known to have been detained or to have disappeared after they posted accounts from Wuhan during the COVID-19 outbreak.
‘Picking quarrels and provoking trouble’ is a vaguely defined charge often used by Chinese authorities to target activists and dissidents, which carries a prison sentence of up to five years.
A Chinese citizen journalist who had uploaded coronavirus reports from Wuhan onto social media to criticise the city’s handling of the outbreak has been arrested, according to reports
Ms Zhang had live-streamed scenes onto Twitter and YouTube, including evidence of crematoriums operating at midnight. The picture from January 25 shows mask-donning Wuhan residents queuing for medical attention at Wuhan Red Cross Hospital
According to Ms Zhang’s YouTube channel, she visited some of the most sensitive places in Wuhan at the height of the city’s COVID-19 outbreak, including the Wuhan Institute of Virology, crematoriums and hospitals.
In one clip uploaded on February 25, one man told Ms Zhang that he had just seen a crematorium van transporting corpses from Wuhan Wuchang Hospital. ‘It’s too scary,’ the man is heard saying while standing outside the medical facility.
In five videos released the next day, she filmed the exterior of the tightly guarded the Wuhan Institute of Virology, which has been at the centre of startling theories that the virus escaped from there. The institute was surrounded by high-voltage electric fences and run by the military, Ms Zhang claimed.
She also captured how one crematorium was working overnight in mid-February, thought to be burning the bodies of COVID-19 victims.
In addition, the Hubei Provincial People’s Hospital appeared to be packed with patients on March 1 when official figures showed the number of daily infections had dropped sharply.
Grieving Wuhan families have sought legal help in suing the government after losing their loved ones to the coronavirus, according to the New York Times. But some had to drop the idea after being harassed and threatened by authorities, a New York-based activist told the paper
Ms Zhang arrest was revealed by South China Morning Post, which claimed to have confirmed the news with Zhang’s father, who was notified by police on Friday.
She is believed to be one of four citizen journalists known to have been detained or to have disappeared after they posted accounts about Wuhan’s coronavirus outbreak.
Chen Qiushi, 34, was last heard from on February 6, and his whereabouts are unknown. Fang Bin, a businessman, also disappeared in early February, and is believed to have been taken into state custody. Li Zehua, 25, disappeared in late February.
China has reportedly harassed, threatened and silenced multiple citizens who vowed to hold the government responsible for its perceived missteps in dealing with the new coronavirus outbreak.
One civil servant is said to have been interrogated and gagged by the police after filing the country’s first lawsuit against the provincial government of Hubei for ‘causing unprecedented losses’ to its people’s lives and properties.
Chen Mei (left), Cai Wei (right) and Cai’s girlfriend surnamed Tang went missing on April 19, according to a source. News of Chen and Cai’s apparent disappearance and their pictures (above) were first reported by a Twitter account, known as ‘southern_idiot ‘, on April 25
Mr Tan accused the Hubei government of concealing the virus’s human-to-human transmission and hosting a series of political meetings on January 11 and January 12
Dr Li Wenliang, 34, died of the coronavirus in February after being punished for sounding the alarm over the outbreak. The police accused Dr Li and other medics of spreading fake news
Other grieving Wuhan residents were allegedly hassled, intimidated and hushed by authorities after planning to draw up petitions against officials over their response to the health crisis, which has killed more than 477,000 worldwide.
China is facing mounting criticism from global leaders over its handling of the pandemic, including punishing whistleblowers who tried to warn the public about the new virus.
Multiple activists, journalists and ordinary internet users have reportedly vanished after criticising Beijing’s approach to the crisis.
In Wuhan, where the pandemic first emerged in December, seven residents have sought legal help in suing the government, according to the New York Times.
These residents either suffered from COVID-19 or lost their family members to it, a legal rights advocate told the paper.
And it’s not just mourning families. The Chinese government has allegedly warned lawyers not to help file suit against it too.
Tan Jun, a Hubei resident, is pictured standing outside a district court in Yichang in this picture circulating online and re-posted by Radio Free Asia. Mr Tan is the first person in China to publicly attempt to sue the government over its alleged cover-up of the coronavirus outbreak
‘They are worried that if people defend their rights, the international community will know what the real situation is like in Wuhan and the true experiences of the families there,’ Yang Zhanqing, who had been giving these families legal advice, told the New York Times.
New York-based Mr Yang said at least two out of the seven residents had to drop their plans after authorities had harassed and threatened them.
The seven families’ misfortune came after another citizen of Hubei, named Tan Jun, had reportedly been grilled by police for submitting a legal petition against the Hubei government over the coronavirus outbreak.
Xu Zhiyong (pictured in 2009) was detained after publishing a series of blog posts criticising the Communist Party’s response to the coronavirus outbreak that has now killed at least 3,893
Ren Zhiqiang, a prominent Communist party member who criticised Xi Jinping’s handling of the coronavirus outbreak, is being investigated on suspicion of a ‘severe violation of discipline and law’. In this file photo from 2012, the then real estate mogul is seen in his office in Beijing
Mr Tan, a civil servant, is the first person to make a public attempt to sue authorities over their response to the epidemic in China. He lives in the city of Yichang, which is around 200 miles west of Wuhan.
He handed in a petition against the provincial government of Hubei to the Xiling District Court of Yichang in person on April 13 and mailed another appeal to the Wuhan Intermediate People’s Court two days later, according to media reports.
Online pictures of a legal petition believed to be submitted by Mr Tan show that he accused the Hubei government of concealing the virus’s human-to-human transmission and hosting a series of political meetings on January 11 and January 12.
The petition also accused officials of organising a vast banquet ahead of the Lunar New Year, knowingly putting more than 40,000 attending families at risks of being infected.