Another independent journalist arrested in Wuhan

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists is urging Chinese authorities to immediately release journalist Zhang Zhan, drop any charges against her, and ensure that the media can cover the coronavirus pandemic without fear of arrest. Zhang, an independent video journalist who had been posting reports from Wuhan on Twitter and YouTube since early February, went missing in the city on May 14, one day after she published a video critical of the government's countermeasures to contain the virus, according to news reports. On May 15, the Shanghai Municipal Public Security Bureau issued a notice stating that Zhang had been arrested and detained for "picking quarrels and provoking trouble," and was being held at the Pudong Xinqu Detention Center. If convicted, she could face up to five years in prison, according to the Chinese criminal code.

"China professes pride in its handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, but appears deathly afraid of allowing independent journalists like Zhang Zhan to freely tell the story of what is happening," said CPJ Asia program coordinator Steven Butler. "Chinese authorities should free Zhang immediately and allow her to continue the important work of documenting the impact of the disease."

Since arriving in Wuhan in early February, Zhang posted videos including interviews with local business owners who were severely impacted by the pandemic, and with workers who struggled to find employment in the city.

CPJ called the Wuhan Public Security Bureau for comment, but no one answered. An officer at the Shanghai Municipal Public Security Bureau told CPJ to call the Pudong Xinqu Detention Center for information about Zhang's arrest. CPJ called the center, but no one answered.

Video journalist Chen Quishi, who traveled to Wuhan to report on the pandemic in late January, went missing after telling his family that he planned to visit a temporary hospital on Feb. 6, as CPJ documented at the time.

Freelance journalist Li Zehua, who also went missing in the city after posting two live-stream videos claiming that state security agents were pursuing him on Feb. 26, reappeared two months later claiming that he was quarantined by police because he had been to "sensitive epidemic areas," according to news reports.

From the Committee to Protect Journalists, May 18

See our last post on the Wuhan crisis.

Strange politics of COVID-era dissent in China

Liang Yanping, a professor of literary criticism at Hubei University, has been stripped of her position and Communist Party membership for three transgressions:

1. Voicing support for "Wuhan Diary" blogger Fang Fang (also known as Wang Fang). Good for her.

2. Voicing support for the Hong Kong protesters. Again, very good.

3. Forwarding social media posts "that suggested that Japan was justified in invading China," and denying Japanese war crimes.

uh... What the fuck?

From SCMP.

China: detained citizen journalist 'restrained and fed by tube'

A citizen journalist detained for more than six months after reporting on the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak has had a feeding tube forcibly inserted and her arms restrained to stop her pulling it out, her lawyer said. Zhang Zhan, 37, a former lawyer, has been on hunger strike at a detention facility near Shanghai. Zhang was arrested in May and accused of "picking quarrels and stirring up trouble," an accusation frequently used against critics and activists in China, after reporting on social media and streaming accounts. Last month she was formally indicted on charges of spreading false information. (The Guardian)

China: detained citizen journalist sentenced to four years

A Chinese citizen journalist who covered Wuhan's coronavirus outbreak has been sentenced to four years in prison. Zhang Zhan was found guilty of "picking quarrels and provoking trouble," a frequent charge against activists. The 37-year-old former lawyer was detained in May, and has been on hunger strike for several months. Her lawyers say she is in poor health. (BBC News)

Zhang Zhan lashed out at judge during trial: lawyer

Jailed citizen journalist Zhang Zhan hit back at the judge at her sentencing, according to her lawyer. Zhang, 37, appeared in the Pudong New District People's Court in a wheelchair on Tuesday after being force-fed during a hunger strike in the Pudong New District Detention Center. Zhang refused to speak when asked by the judge to confirm her personal details, the lawyer said. The judge then instructed the clerk to record that she hadn't replied, whereupon Zhang retorted: "Doesn't your conscience tell you that what you are doing is wrong, in putting me in the dock?" (RFA)

Imprisoned citizen journalist Zhang Zhan 'close to death'

A citizen journalist jailed for her coverage of China's initial response to COVID in Wuhan is close to death after going on hunger strike, her family said, prompting renewed calls from rights groups for her immediate release.

Zhang Zhan, 38, a former lawyer, travelled to Wuhan in February 2020 to report on the chaos at the pandemic’s epicentre, questioning authorities’ handling of the outbreak in her smartphone videos. She was detained in May 2020 and sentenced in December to four years in prison for "picking quarrels and provoking trouble"—a charge routinely used to suppress dissent.

She is now severely underweight and "may not live for much longer," her brother Zhang Ju wrote last week on a Twitter account verified by people close to the matter. (HKFP)

Zhang Zhan is among a group of four citizen journalists—also including Chen Qiushi, Fang Bin and Li Zehua—detained after reporting from Wuhan.

Studies find Wuhan animal market likely COVID epicenter

Two independent studies, published this week in the journal Science, strongly suggest that the coronavirus pandemic originated in a Wuhan market where live animals were sold, rather than escaping from a Chinese lab.

In one study, scientists used mapping tools to estimate the locations of the earliest reported COVID-19 cases from December 2019 through February of 2020. What they found was that the highest density of cases were clustered in and around the market, an indication that the virus started spreading among people who worked there.

In the second study, scientists analyzed the genomes of viral samples from inside and outside of China during the same time period. They discoverd that two lineages—A and B—indicated the pandemic's beginning in Wuhan. Lineage A is more genetically similar to bat coronaviruses, but lineage B appears to have begun spreading earlier in humans, particularly at the market.

The authors say they have not disproven the lab leak theory, but that combined, the pair of studies make the case for the natural origin hypothesis much more likely. (