Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued demands to the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) to release Zhang Zhan, a 37-year old Chinese journalist who documented the outbreak of the coronavirus in Wuhan during early 2020. Zhan was sentenced to four years in prison on Monday for her coverage of the virus outbreak.
Pompeo released an official statement from the State Department strongly condemning what was viewed as a “sham prosecution” and conviction that led to Zhan’s unjust imprisonment. “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”, Pompeo states, “after the CCP-imposed strict media controls were enforced and a controllable outbreak turned into a deadly global pandemic.”
Outside observance by foreign visitors of Zhan’s trial was strictly prohibited and the shadowy trial was carried out in haste. Pompeo viewed Zhan’s imprisonment as an unlawful suppression of the freedom to express herself freely and peaceably, while impeding Zhan from carrying out her duties as a citizen journalist.
Zhan’s controversial imprisonment is part of a large body of evidence that members of Congress, White House officials and many journalists have collected over the year, revealing that the Chinese Communist Party repeatedly lied and sought to conceal the origins of the virus outbreak in Wuhan. Many whistleblowers, including Dr. Li-Meng Yan, have escaped capture in China to report on what they’ve observed in Wuhan laboratories, providing indications that the virus could have been created by the Chinese government.
China has actively detained doctors and prevented health officials from properly investigating facilities in Wuhan. Controversially, the World Health Organization (WHO) seemed to cover for China’s perceived ignorance of human-to-human transmission of the coronavirus in January 2020, despite the CCP acknowledging in late 2019 that such transmission had in-fact been occurring.
Zhan had been charged for refusing to plead guilty and for engaging in “quarrels” and “trouble” according to her attorney Zhang Keke. Zhan had been confined to a wheelchair for being overly frail and weak while being held in custody by Chinse officials. Her poor condition can be traced to when Zhang was first detained in May and later returned to Shanghai. She began a hunger strike that supposedly caused her to be physically restrained by Chinese officials and forced to eat through a feeding tube. Zhang’s lawyers refute the indictment that she was guilty of seeking to “maliciously stir up the Wuhan COVID-19 epidemic situation,” citing no evidence for this claim.
It is alleged that the Chinese government seeks to use Zhang’s case as a means of scaring off other potential journalistic examinations into the origins of the coronavirus in Wuhan. Zhang had even reported on her social media accounts about other like-minded reporters being jailed for reporting on the virus outbreak over the summer, while also speaking to how many families of the victims to the virus were prevented from issuing their grievances. According to updated reports from John Hopkins University, the virus has metastasized in scale, infecting nearly 81 million people and killing more than 1.7 million people, since Zhan originally reported on its outbreak.