Chinese blogger was tried for violating health rules, not for practicing journalism

Zhang Zhan was sent to prison for disrespecting health protocols and producing disinformation about combating covid-19

Translated by: Ítalo Piva

Brasil de Fato | São Paulo |
Zhang Zhan has called covid-19 a "socialist pandemic" and stated that "only jesus can save [patients]" - YouTube screenshot

37 year old Chinese blogger Zhang Zhan, sentenced this week to four years in prison, was not tried for covering the covid-19 pandemic, as reported by the Brazilian press. The court filings point out that she violated health protocols, caused disturbances and confusion, and spread disinformation about public health measures aimed at combating the coronavirus.

Most of the information about the case that circulated in Brazil, used international agencies as sources, which in turn were based on statements by Zhang's defense, and not official court documents, which may have led to the inaccuracy.

Zhang is an opponent of the current Chinese government and an anti-communism militant, known for recording videos for her YouTube channel with the message "End socialism, overthrow the Communist Party of China". In the Chinese press, she is described as a fundamentalist Christian. On other occasions when she previously was arrested, she even received psychiatric treatment before being released.

Quotes from the Bible are frequent in videos that are still available on the internet. In the images, Zhang is shown starting a riot in front of hospitals and filming patients undergoing tests in Wuhan, considered the epicenter of the pandemic until February. She criticizes quarantines as a method of curbing the spread of the virus and goes so far as to say that "only Jesus can save [covid-19 patients]".

Journalist Marcelo Bamonte, who published a profile of Zhang Zhan this week, recalls that one of the articles critical of the Chinese government written by her, contains the word "God" 62 times. In the same text, she says she considers herself an envoy from God, sent to end socialism.

Bamonte also points out that, in one of the videos, she herself states to a police officer that she does not practice journalism.

Zhang refers to covid-19 as a “socialist pandemic”, criticizing the restrictions adopted in China to face the spread of the virus.

China is considered by the World Health Organization (WHO) to be a positive reference in the fight against the coronavirus. With a population of 1.4 billion inhabitants, the largest on the planet, only 4.8 thousand deaths were recorded.

The United States and the European Union asked last Tuesday, Decemer 29th, for Zhang’s immediate release, referring to her as a “citizen journalist”.

Edited by: Rodrigo Durão Coelho