U.S., EU criticise China for jailing citizen-journalist who reported on COVID-19

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BRUSSELS/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The European Union and United States on Tuesday criticised the jailing of a citizen-journalist in China who reported on the early outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic from Wuhan.

A Chinese court handed down a four-year jail term on Monday to Zhang Zhan, who reported at the peak of the crisis in the city where the coronavirus first emerged. Her lawyer said Zhang was jailed on the grounds of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement that he strongly condemned Zhang’s conviction and called for her immediate and unconditional release, accusing the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) of restricting and manipulating information about the COVID-19 outbreak in Wuhan.

“Her hasty trial, to which foreign observers were denied access, shows how fearful the CCP is of Chinese citizens who speak the truth,” Pompeo said, adding that the United States would always support the right of Chinese citizens to express themselves freely.

U.S.-China relations have plunged to their worst level in decades as the world’s top two economies spar over issues ranging from the coronavirus outbreak, Beijing’s national security law for Hong Kong, trade and espionage.

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