Zhang Zhan, a 37-year-old citizen journalist who reported on crowded hospitals and the conditions in Wuhan earlier this year, was sentenced Monday to four years over the offense of "picking quarrels and provoking trouble," reports said.
Reuters, citing her lawyer, reported that there will likely be an appeal and said his client believes she is "being persecuted for exercising her freedom of speech."
A pro-democracy activist holds placards with the picture of Chinese citizen journalist Zhang Zhan outside the Chinese central government’s liaison office, in Hong Kong. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung)
The New York Times reported that the prison sentence will likely be seen as a "stark warning to those challenging the government’s official narrative of the pandemic."
President Trump has blamed China for its handling of the virus in the early stages. He has said that it is because of Beijing’s mishandling that the disease was able to spread so quickly throughout the world.
In June, senior Chinese officials released a lengthy report on the country’s response and defended Beijing’s actions.
"The Chinese government did not delay or cover up anything," National Health Commission Chairman Ma Xiaowei said. "Instead, we have immediately reported virus data and relevant information about the epidemic to the international community and made an important contribution to the prevention and control of the epidemic around the world."
The Reuters report said that Zhang posted videos on YouTube that showed interviews with residents and images of the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
She was critical of the response and eventually detained in May."The government’s way of managing this city has just been intimidation and threats," she said in one video, according to the Times. "This is truly the tragedy of this country."
The Associated Press contributed to this report