Washington DC [US], December 30 (ANI): Condemning China for "sham prosecution and conviction", US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Tuesday called for the release of citizen journalist Zhang Zhan who was detained in May for her live stream reporting from Wuhan over Covid-19 and later sentenced to four years of imprisonment.
"The United States strongly condemns the People's Republic of China's (PRC) sham prosecution and conviction of citizen journalist Zhang Zhan on December 28. We call on the PRC government to release her immediately and unconditionally," Pompeo said in a statement.
This comes after a Shanghai court sentenced Zhang to four years in prison on charges of disseminating information that provokes conflict.
Responding to the prison sentence of Zhang, Pompeo said the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has shown once again that it will do whatever it takes to silence those who question its official line, even regarding crucial public health information concerning the spread of the novel coronavirus pandemic in China and beyond.
"Lying is a feature, not a bug of authoritarian regimes. The CCP restricted and manipulated information about the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan from the start and brutally silenced other brave truth-tellers, such as Dr Li Wenliang, Chen Qiushi, and Fang Bin," he said.
Pompeo further said that the world relied on uncensored coverage of citizen journalists like Zhang to understand the true situation regarding the coronavirus outbreak in Wuhan and the brutal measures implemented to stop its spread.
"Her hasty trial, to which foreign observers were denied access, shows how fearful the CCP is of Chinese citizens who speak the truth," he said.
The Secretary of State added that the PRC government's fear of transparency and its ongoing repression of fundamental freedoms are a sign of weakness, not strength, and a threat to all of us. "The United States will always support the right of Chinese citizens to express themselves freely and peacefully," he said.
Zhang covered the coronavirus outbreak from Wuhan in February, exposing the methods employed by the Chinese authorities to contain its spread as well as the state of affairs in local hospitals.
Zhang has been held at a detention centre in Shanghai's Pudong district since mid-May. Earlier today, the European Union External Action Service (EEAS) demanded that Beijing free citizen journalist Zhang Zhan.
In a statement by the spokesperson of the EEAS, it said that the restrictions on freedom of expression, on access to information, and intimidation and surveillance of journalists, as well as detentions, trials and sentencing of human rights defenders, lawyers, and intellectuals in China, "are growing and continue to be a source of great concern." (ANI)